The Lucky Country – Hayes Theatre Co (NSW)
Music and Lyrics by Vidya Makan in collaboration with Sonya Suares. Directed by Sonya Suares
Reviewed by Tessa Miles
Hayes Theatre Company, Potts Point
Until 17th June
- A must-see new musical that is a breath of fresh air in the musical theatre canon. This is only the beginning of what could be our next great musical -
The Lucky Country is an exceptional new Australian musical that challenges traditional notions of Australian identity by presenting stories from the perspectives of underrepresented voices and First Nations people. Written by Vidya Makan in collaboration with Sonya Suares, this production offers a refreshing and insightful exploration of multiculturalism and inclusivity.
The show features a talented cast of six performers, Joseph Althouse, Dyagula, Milo Hartill, Jeffrey Liu, Karlis Zaid, and VidyaMakan herself, who bring to life a diverse range of Australian characters throughout the 65-minute performance. The story revolves around Boy, a 13-year-old Thither Warra boy (brilliantly portrayed by Althouse) who embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, the audience is introduced to a vibrant array of characters, including a Chinese restaurant owner dreaming of a nudist lifestyle in Byron Bay (Liu), a couple of grey nomads finding love on a Contiki tour in Morocco (Dyagula and Zaid), a young refugee struggling to grow her garden (Hartill), a WW2 veteran, an aspiring actress (Makan), and a captivating fake-Russian choir. Through soulful songs and minimal dialogue, the narratives are intricately woven together, blending humour, a touch of camp, and genuine reflections on the Australian identity.
Photos by Phil Erbacher
The songs in The Lucky Country are a true highlight, masterfully written and inspired by iconic Australian performers like Baker Boy, Kylie Minogue, Jimmy Barnes, and The Seekers. Each song stands out with its unique sound, yet they seamlessly contribute to the overall storytelling. HeidiMaguire's orchestration elevates Makan's vision to new heights, filling the audience with joy, elation, and compassion. The melodies are not only catchy, the lyrics also convey the characters' deepest desires, struggles, and dreams, and the songs will linger in your head long after the performance ends.
The cast's performances are thoroughly entertaining, showcasing their exceptional talent and creating a cohesive ensemble. However, it is Milo Hartill who steals the show with their unforgettable rendition of "I Could Kill Ya." Hartill's larger-than-life personality and impeccable comedic timing leave the audience in stitches of laughter.
The production's staging and design elements contribute significantly to the storytelling experience. Justin Harrison's projections cleverly transport the audience between different locations, effectively capturing the essence of the Australian countryside, school classrooms, city streets, and beyond. The simple yet impactful visual cues aid in building and setting the scenes. The lighting design aptly captures the shifting moods and atmospheres, while the simple and modern costumes, inspired by First Nations fashion labels, are modern, simple, and reflective of the diverse Australian landscape.
The Lucky Country is a must-see musical that skilfully explores Australia's multicultural identity.
While The Lucky Country successfully represents minority Australians, there is room for further character development to maintain the overall momentum of the production. However, these minor flaws do not overshadow the musical's many strengths. This original Australian work is a breath of fresh air, shedding light on Australian identities typically underrepresented in narratives. The Lucky Country is a must-see musical that skilfully explores Australia's multicultural identity.
Vidya Makan's exceptional writing and music, combined with outstanding performances and thoughtful staging, create a production that deeply resonates with its audience. By addressing themes of belonging, cultural integration, and the search for identity, The Lucky Country successfully illuminates the complexities of Australian society while giving a voice and a stage to those voices that shape the fabric of Australia.
Let us hope that The Lucky Country, Vidya Makan, Sonya Suares, and the entire creative team behind this wonderful original Australian production inspire future works that embrace and celebrate the diverse stories of our nation.
Cast album now, please!
CAST & CREATIVES
Director Sonya Suares Musical Director & Orchestrator Heidi Maguire Cultural Consultant Amy Sole Choreographer Amy Zhang Set and Costume Designer Emily Collett Lighting Designer Rob Sowinski Video Designer Justin Harrison Sound Designer Michael Tan Associate Lighting Designer Lucia Haddad Stage Manager Anastasia Mowen Associate Artist Bali Padda Assistant to the Director Michele Gould
Starring Joseph Althouse, Dyagula, Milo Hartill, Jeffrey Liu, Vidya Makan (May 26 – June 3), Ava Madon (June 5 – end of season), Kristal West (alt.), Kristal West, Karlis Zaid
Band Nathan Barraclough, Heidi Maguire, Ann Metry, Billy McPherson, Kathryn Stammers