Let the battle begin!
By Brad Storer
World War Wonderful! stands as a dark parable about blind patriotism and the cycle of violence surrounding warfare. Luckily for the audience, the near-Brechtian bleakness of its vision comes clothed in hilariously quotable dialogue and insanely hummable tunes.
Greeted upon entry with the projected image of the American flag and accompanied by manic ragtime music, audience members are cast as soldiers watching a USO entertainment show.
Tonight’s performers are the Wonderful Sisters, a trio of energetic, harmony-singing siblings in the style of the Andrews Sisters (their bitter rivals). It is World War Six, Winston Churchill is President of the United States (played on video here by Casey Bennetto) and after many years of profitable war-mongering, the frightening prospect of peacetime is approaching.
The setting gives writer/composer Karin Muiznieks many opportunities to create pastiches of 1940’s musical styles, such as patriotic anthems, novelty songs, dark tangos and syrupy torch songs – all served up with deliciously twisted lyrics and pointed political satire.
Subjects include the advantages of a decorated military love-partner with (several) amputated limbs, sexual ‘warfare’, and a ‘Mr Sandman’ take-off describing the perfect political leader while making jibes at the modern American political landscape. Even those unfamiliar with this period of music will find themselves laughing at the wit and audacity of these seemingly peppy songs.
The three leads, as directed here by Scott Gooding, are all impressive in their individual roles: Louise McCrae as Fanny, the innocent youngest sibling, Laura McCulloch as the cunning middle sister Ruth, and Penelope Bruce as the morally ambivalent eldest sister Gloria. Their interactions and family feuding are perfectly played out as they seek to maintain their wealth and power in a world on the verge of peace.
By the time we reach the end of the show, the sinister conclusion seems both comically logical and chillingly unavoidable. Despite some minor technical problems on opening night, which were competently covered over by the performers, the gruesome message of World War Wonderful! was perfectly executed by all involved.
The Lamond Room, South Melbourne Town Hall
Friday 22/Saturday 23 July, 9.30pm
Tickets: www.melbournecabaret.com, ph. 1300 640 801 or at the festival box office (South Melbourne Town Hall)