Plenty of charm and intrigue in new Australian musical
By Rebecca Waese
Vic Theatre Company’s The Gathering, directed by Chris Parker, is an original Australian musical about friendship, love and loss inspired by the spirit of the Millennial generation. A group of twenty-somethings reunite in a haunted house to see their friend Tom (Joel Granger) who has surfaced after five years. When Tom runs away again, the friends stand by one another, (think of an Australian Rent meets Scooby-doo and the gang), and Tom begins to emerge from the shadows of his mysterious past.
There is plenty to applaud in this production (with book, music and lyrics by Will Hannagan and Belinda Jenkin) and in this company of young performers who are promising, self-possessed and leave their hearts on the stage. Outstanding vocals are delivered by Luke (Daniel Assetta), playing the camp best friend of Tom’s foster sister Kelly, (Shannen Alyce Quan), who is another strong talent to watch. Quan shows power and vulnerability in “Sweet December Feelings” with subtle and nostalgic references to the particular qualities of an Australian summer. Daisy, (Hannah Sullivan McInervey), shines in her solo, “Hair So Long” and Sullivan McInvervy’s voice brings a refreshing and unexpected Missy Higgins-type quality to the ensemble.
The vocals, however, under the musical direction of Daniel Puckey, are far superior to some of the lyrics, and there are a few weak plot points in the show. A handful of too-obvious rhymes calls out for the guiding hand of an experienced dramaturg. Yet, the open spirit of the young company made me forgive some of the clangers and the performers did well to shroud them with humour and ironic deliveries. Luke’s memorable line to Kelly, “I apologize profusely/ by making you muesli,” struck a playful note as the friends negotiated their path to adulthood amidst the chaos that growing up and apart brings.
There is some enjoyable comic work by Mia (Olivia Charalambous), and a compelling dramatic moment when Tom asks why Luke didn’t help him when he needed it most. Heartbroken Joe (Daniel Cosgrove) was delightful when Daisy’s line, “we’re on a break”, lead to a sudden realisation.
The Gathering captures a sense of the moment today for young Australians out in the world, released from share-houses and uni and beginning to make their way as adults. The big company numbers are exuberant with “Never Ever” re-living the classic drinking game, “Haunted” lit by Iphone-wielding ghost-busters, and “A Different Kind of Love” bringing resolution to Tom and his friends as harmonies fill the space. There is a distinct sense of Australian place in this musical, which, despite some awkward lyrics and plot holes, speaks openheartedly and with comic self-awareness of this moment in time for the Millennial generation. Whether this is your tribe or you want to eavesdrop on their moment, The Gathering is uplifting and has much to offer.
Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Nov 30 Dec, 2, 6, 8, 11, 7.30pm
Nov 26, 4pm, Dec 3,10, 8.30pm
Nov 27, Dec 4, 3pm
Tickets: $38 – $42
Bookings: 03 9662 9966 or online
Image by James Terry Photography
Rebecca Waese is a Lecturer in Creative Arts and English at La Trobe University.