Forgive, Forget, Redeem.
By Sebastian Purcell
Set in urban modern Australia, Pastor Richard Sunday (Nelson Gardner) runs the Mega-Church of DreamSong, along with his (second) wife Christian Pop artist Whitney Sunday. Together they concoct a plan to not only increase the church’s standing in the community but re-elect out of favour Prime Minister Darren Cunningham (Jarrod Griffiths). However not all actions are conducted in good faith as DreamSong navigates the waters of fame, celebrity, power, honesty, faith and redemption.
This musical comedy looks to emulate the success of the Book of Mormon by providing endless laughs at Big religion which is more focused on status, wealth and power over faith. This is a tight show, wonderfully directed by Lauren Mckenna and pop/ rock score executed dutifully by the band, led by Maverick Newman, ensures the cast works seamlessly as an ensemble (Luisa Scrofani, Gareth Issac, Samuael Skuthrop and Tayla Muir) and gives everyone their moment in the spotlight. Lauren’s work with the creative team is fantastic and smooth in particular using a giant cross as both prop and scene setting is aesthetically clean and current, rising to its crescendo in ‘Funeral Hymn’.
Choreographer Madison Lee should be applauded for the incredible dance routines which add so much colour, movement and laughter, though she’s supported by one of the most flexible and vibrant casts to take to the stage. Madison makes the church feel more of a pop/ hip hop show than your Sunday sermons, with sex dripping from routine after routine.
Annie Aitken delivers the standout performance of the night, her soaring soprano voice is largely under utilised by the score, but when she’s able to let loose – in particular in It isn’t Fair – it will give you chills. Annie shows that seeking fame at any cost will always have consequences and her stage presence is mesmerising throughout.
Nicola Bowman as April Sunday drives the heart of the show, losing her faith, re-affirming her faith and questioning DreamSong’s teachings to high praise. She excels in the shows few soft moments in April’s Prayer and Show Me. Olivia Charalambous as Jesus Christ recounts the events of the last supper and over 2000 years of history in minutes in a dramatic and polished re-enactment while Maxwell Simon (Chris T) rocks it out as a pop sensation turned wannabe saviour.
Gardner and Griffiths commit enthusiastically to their malevolent, scheming characters with props to Griffiths who literally blows smoke up Chris T’s arse. Kate Schmidli (Clarice) and Bailey Dunnage (Neville) provide the voices of reason to their boss’ with Bailey in particular providing an outstanding performance as a nervous, intelligent but incredibly confused follower.
I found that the shows only downfall is that it tries to do too much. It’s jam packed with jokes, political and social references, so many that I was at a loss for what exactly DreamSong’s message is. While set in Australia with denim costumes, and Australian flags, the introduction of guns and a tweeting, golfing Prime Minister, seems to confuse Australia with America; and I wonder it the show’s authenticity would be impacted by this. I would be curious to see what sort of show would result from a more condensed, focused book; hopefully, one that would cement this Book of Mormon-like show as a cult favourite.
DreamSong plays at The Alex Theatre, St Kilda 22 Nov – 30 Nov.
Tickets available through Ticketek.com.au
Photography courtesy of The Alex Theatre