Nothing says theatre better than men jumping into each other's arms gracefully while landing soft punches. The art of fighting on stage is a craft of ballet, dancing to a song you hear in your head with jabs of sharp violins and the underscore of the orchestra pit. Throw in lyrics and you've got yourself a musical.
Cold and colder with the air pulling all hairs in goose-slapping fashion. Fog machines at the ready, the clouds and fairy tales are on for a song and "Once upon a time..." starts us off. In shadow of course. The parents of Shrek and Princess Fiona sing to their kids with a cast over their faces due to the cut of the spotlights. Fearsome undertones of fairy tales never die.
Rhythm and delivery at first sounds like rap, then hip hop. A little more and it's definitely a heart of poetry. The slam and the beat. A sound distinct, the patter unique, the ears in for a treat. Yes, the mood sinks and bobs, but the spirit rises up and eats up a charge, an energy born in the lyrics.
Minor static on the backing tapes, deep set into the rear of the stage and faces that move while the words aren't coming out or do when they don't. It's lip-synching for the matinee and disappointment served up front. A new Christmas musical and all the songs and voices are creaking out at 10 years in the stew. At least they could turn the volume up.
Strobe lights are thick and fast, landing a white coat on the back of the throat while your eyes stumble out of their sockets and jump back when they find out how chapped your cheeks are. It's a physical manifestation of light, the waves come solid and you're in a daze to see what brings about the lightning like this. The set lamp mechanics are no friends of epileptics.
Over the hustling schools of kids in various single colour uniforms mobbing about Georgia Aquarium on a weekday, Alvin at the information desk starts off the description of Dolphin Tales with, "Part Broadway show, part..." and on that we're already at the ticket counter for the last show of the day.
Five minutes into the dark theatre and Mark Twain is already late for his guests. Stormy is the night and a calmly geriatric scent of mothballs permeates the air. Finally, the humorist arrives, bursting through, ushering us all into the warm light of the fireplace.
Two things stand out about the opening to Jack Charles V The Crown. First is the acknowledgement that we are on Aboriginal land, the second is footage taken from Uncle Jack’s documentary, Bastardy, which shows him shooting up heroin. I am grateful for the former as it’s something we don’t see often enough, especially for a craft which I consider to be quite progressive. The latter made me squirm in my seat.
Front-end loader and the title drop happens in the first line with a man playing the fiddle atop a shanty roof. Right on the heels, "Tradition" lays out the background, and by natural extrapolation, the premise of the musical in a number that rounds up the entire cast and peppers it with the style of humour running through its veins.
Colder inside than it is outside, where it's single digit Celsius, the table comes with a bill already hit with a tip before taking a seat. A rerun of Saturday Night Live rolls on, rolls out and fades to black as the stage is taken alive. Three comedians in a row, but the room is already off their face before the first act is up.
God is Eric Idle. Or the voice of. Or at least the recording is what introduces the show and hushes those in the audience with fingers on their mobiles and loud lolly wrappers. Prep them glands of saliva, for the two hours ahead is a dry and salty territory of humour and the chin gallery.
Feeding off the warmth of emotion, character growth and bustling community that unfolds in this performance utterly destroys any choke hold or bracketing stance that in all this time, events unfold in the squat, cramp confines of attic space. In the two years that occupy the period of invasion and disappearances, the light of hope holds bright against the darkness that surrounds.
Based on Alice Walker's epistolary novel, the musical production of The Color Purple takes the heart and struggle to explode its essence in song. And rather cheekily at that. What is a rather depressing story keeps all that beat down and shines and shines on the humour and joy that absolutely lives within.