I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
As an ex-Lost fan, I was excited to hear that new kids on the block, Whimsical Productions, were producing a new Australian musical parody based on the hit TV show that ran from 2004 - 2010. The show that became one of the most talked about (and most frustrating) shows of the decade makes the perfect parody material, with characters that can easily be overplayed and over-dramatised.
For those unfamiliar with the TV show, you'll need this basic premise. A plane crashes on an unknown, seemingly uninhabited island which leads a bunch of strangers to face impossible odds of survival. As they continue their journey, they learn that the island has many secrets and dangers that they have to withstand.
Found brings back all the characters from Lost that we know and watched struggle on the island. One of the challenges with Found is that there are just so many characters, so they (quite rightly) decide to focus in on the characters key to moving the show along: Dr Jack Shephard, Sawyer, Kate and John Locke with a little bit of input from Claire, Charlie, Jin, Sun, Sayeed and Hurley.
To be honest, I believe that audiences who haven't watched Lost will struggle with the complex plot of Found. I watched the series for three seasons before giving up and I was still confused and couldn't figure out what was going on at certain points, so I'm not convinced a non-watcher would be able to follow along.
Found is the brainchild of Madeleine Halls who is the writer, composer and director of this new Australian musical. Whilst Halls is obviously talented, the piece needs more work to turn it from a Lost re-hash to a pure parody. As it currently stands, the piece sits somewhere between musical and parody musical, and it feels like Halls' affinity for exploring the many plot lines of Lost has maybe gotten in the way of creating a snappy parody show. This is evident in the fact that the show runs for far too long. With a first act that closes out at around the 1hr 45 min mark and a second act that runs for another hour. When interval finally hit, the audience felt a little bewildered as to whether that was the end of the show or whether there was more to come.
With that said, Halls has written some funny moments and there are sections of music that are really inspired. Halls' skills really shine in the ukulele scene between Charlie (Doug Bryant) and Claire (Cathlyn-Rose McKellar) that manages to be both funny and very genuine at the same time. This scene is the absolute highlight of the show.
David Lang's musical direction is on point, with invigorating ensemble singing that drives the show along and his and Aaron Cornelius' arrangements of Halls' music displays an obvious talent. Marika Zorlou's choreography is a lot of fun, particularly in the madness of full group numbers and Susan Boyle's costuming absolutely captures the essence of the characters from the hit TV show (with the exception of a few unfortunate wigs and a very obvious skull cap).
Lighting designer and operator Allistair Butler has done a decent job with a minimal rig and a difficult space, but there are a few opening night fumbles that I'm sure will be ironed out throughout the run. There are moments where lighting states seem to be changing mid-scene, which gets a bit distracting. Zita Walker's settings are perfect for the piece and make fabulous use of the space.
The real letdown on opening night is the sound, with microphones crackling a real issue throughout most of Act One. This seems to have been rectified in Act Two, so hopefully the team have sorted this issue out for good for the rest of the run.
The large ensemble cast are strong and bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm. Most of the solo singers are able to deliver solid vocal performances and are definitely having fun with their characters. Emily Engeman demonstrates a lovely clear voice as Kate and she's perfectly cast as the earthy, gutsy tomboy. David Wotherspoon overplays his Dr Jack to perfection, playing the Alpha Male and layering him with major daddy issues. Vocally, he's not as polished, but he makes it work with his character.
Christopher Daw embodies Sawyer and despite some challenges with pitch in his songs, he is arguably the closest out of all the cast to the actual character from Lost. Helen Muller shows us a beautiful soprano as Juliet, however struggles with pitch at times. Michael Osborne as the enigmatic John Locke demonstrates a 100% commitment to his character and has a lot of fun making the elusive Locke a tantric yoga master who wanders the island with a leaf crown.
Ethan Taylor plays a very fun, Jesus-like, Jacob paired nicely with his evil sister Katherine Nheu and Edwin Tay rounds out the non-crash survivors with his portrayal of the hapless Ben who can't quite catch a break with Jacob.
Without wanting to delve too deep into this I also felt uncomfortable as to the casting of people of colour in the "evil" roles or bit parts. The show has a very diverse cast, but when it comes to the heroes of the story, the cast is all caucasian. Jin and Sun get a look in briefly in the storyline but are constantly labelled Japanese (the characters are Korean) and are relegated to the comic relief for Jack who in his ignorant way acts like he can't understand them even though they're speaking perfect English. The most evil force on the island (The Woman in Black) is played by a woman of colour, whereas all the heroes are white. That is certainly not to say this was a deliberate choice, but as an audience member, it did make me a little uneasy.
It is undeniable that Found needs work. It needs some dramaturgy to tighten up the script and there are definitely some plot points that could be cut in favour of making the whole script funnier and tighter. However, Madeleine Halls and the Whimsical Productions team should definitely be commended on their drive to create new Australian musicals. It is a bold, brave thing to put your own work out there on display.