An exciting new Australian musical takes the cake
By Bradley Storer
The atmosphere on the official opening night of Margaret Fulton: Queen of the Dessert, a new Australian musical written by Doug Macleod and Yuri Worontschak, was overflowing with enthusiasm and national pride.
Greeted at the door of the Theatreworks performance space by members of the cast offering Anzac biscuits and mini-Australian flags, the anticipation of seeing a brand new musical intermingled with a sense of coming together as a community to celebrate the life of an Australian icon (heightened by the presence of the lady herself).
We are taken on a whirlwind ride through episodes of Fulton’s life, from her beginnings as a country girl moving to Sydney, her life in the bohemian underground and her (at the time) unconventional choices of lifestyle, several marriages marred by misery and disaster, on to the heights she gained through her own industrious, strong-willed nature and ingenuity, changing the cultural landscape of Australia forever.
Amy Lehpamer brings to the title role a simultaneous combination of delicacy, refinement and inner strength, a beautiful flower tipped in steel. This is backed up by a powerhouse of a voice which can move as easily from a caress of a whisper to a roof-raising belt. Although illustrating Fulton’s strength and poise to great effect, in the show’s more emotional moments her restraint was frustrating – I wanted Lehpamer to let down the character’s walls and yield to the full power of her passions, even if only for a few moments.
The Present Tense ensemble, under the direction of Bryce Ives, are all strong performers in their own right. Josh Price and Laura Burzacott in particular provide the most side-splitting moments of the evening, Price as a series of grotesque caricatures of Fulton’s various lovers and industrial misogynists, and Burzacott as Bea, Fulton’s long-time friend from her bohemian days, who embodies the character with good-hearted ribaldry.
The book is well-crafted if at times clumsy – it feels at points as though Fulton’s achievements are being ticked off on a list, simply being pointed out rather than explaining how these achievements emerged from her life and circumstances. After one of the best and highly emotional scenes in the narrative, the show unfortunately peters out in its last few moments as though it has lost even a glimmer of narrative.
Overall though, this is an exciting, inspiring and highly entertaining production which pays tribute to the incredible achievements of a true national icon in glorious and gut-bustingly funny song.
Date: 16 Nov 2012 – 01 Dec 2012
Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda Time: Tue, Wed, Thu at 8pm, Fri & Sat 7pm & 9.30pm
Price: $45 full / $30 conc, under 30s & groups 10+/ $25 preview [plus booking fee]
Bookings: www.theatreworks.org.au or 03 9534 3388