REVIEW: Midsumma Festival’s THE BIG GAY CRUISE

All aboard this maritime musical

By Myron My

What could be more fun than a gay cruise? Nothing, according to engaged couple Alex and Ben and their best men, Stephen and Anthony, as they board a gay cruise ship for one final hoorah before their nuptials. Being performed as part of the 2015 Midsumma Festival, it’s fun, sexy and camp laughs in David Peake‘s original musical The Big Gay Cruise, directed by Leigh Barker and presented by Adam J. Lowe.

The Big Gay Cruise

With Alex and Ben (Brenton Cosier and Will Atkinson) soon to be married and their wedding day approaching, insecurities and fear are heightened for the characters. I would have loved to see more focus on this storyline in Peake’s script and an exploration of the secret that is revealed in the second act rather than splitting off to various sideline stories for the support cast. These characters may have had some genuinely funny moments, but I was not as emotionally invested in their story as I was about Alex and Ben’s. I felt more focus on the central couple would have kept the narrative more entertaining, with a stronger pay-off at the end.

The impact of the music raises a similar issue, with many songs not progressing the story, and creating the impression they are mostly filler, such as “The Locker Room” and “My Suite”. Despite being saddled with these unnecessary numbers, most of the cast are strong singers and do exceptionally well with their solo songs. Cosier in particular does an exemplary job when singing, and seems to be in his element during these moments.

The funniest part of The Big Gay Cruise would belong to Ben Paine as the sexually adventurous Anthony, and his song “Strength Inside of Me”, which Paine performs with great comedic expression and timing. However, it is Samuel Kitchen as Stephen who steals the show with “That Happy,” his emotional song of love lost and missed opportunities. This is where Peake’s songwriting skills excel, alongside other striking numbers about life and love such as “There’s A Boy” and “Just A Little Bit”.

Overall, there is little clarity on whose story this is, and thus the relationship between the audience and the inferred “hero” of this musical, Alex, needs to be strengthened. The Big Gay Cruise definitely has enough laughs and a committed cast to prevent this ship from sinking but the script and score do require more fine-tuning.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda.
Season: Until 1 February | Tues – Sat 7:30pm, Sat 3pm, Sun 6pm
Tickets: $39 Full | $35 Concession
Bookings: www.midsumma.org.au, http://www.theatreworks.org.au, or 9534 3388

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