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.
Ten larger than life characters - Only one actor
Squabbalogic has a reputation for tackling quirky, niche and boutique musicals and their latest offering, the Australian premiere season of Herringbone, performed at KXT in Kings Cross is certainly no exception.
A one-man musical billed as a "vaudevillian ghost story", this rarely seen work is the product of the collaboration between Tom Cone (Book), Skip Kennon (Music) and Ellen Fitzhugh (Lyrics) and was first performed by the legendary Joel Grey and subsequently by BD Wong. In this production, Jay James-Moody steps up to the plate to tackle what is an inherently challenging role and one in which he excels.
The playing space of the KXT has been transformed into a circular vaudeville stage and for 90mins without a break, Jay James-Moody shares the stage with only a stool and desk in order to tell his tale. The musical tells the story of a young boy George who takes acting lessons from an old vaudeville performer and who becomes possessed by the evil spirit of his teacher's former stage partner. The play might be a one-man performance, but there are ten characters in the show. It's a marathon for Jay James-Moody, but he demonstrates that he is more than up to the task.
Jay James-Moody and Michael Ralph as co-directors demonstrate an impressive handle of the challenging script. In lesser hands, this show could come off rambling and incoherent, but with the careful storytelling crafted by the co-directors, the production packs a real punch. Ralph's choreography perfectly supports the vaudevillian setting of the play, executed well by his talented actor in James-Moody.
Benjamin Khiene's musical direction is snappy, tight and never seems to miss a beat with the score performed by the talented jazz trio of Tom McCracken, Natalya Aynsley and Amanda Jenkins. Ben Brockman's sepia-hued set and lighting design is subtle and oh so effective. His use of lighting to differentiate character is clever and his ceiling full of brown chairs is intricate and impactful.
The star of the show, however, is the incomparable Jay James-Moody. His ability to transition between characters seamlessly, differentiating each of the ten characters physically and vocally is remarkable. He has the audience spellbound for the full 90 minutes of Herringbone, displaying incredible stage presence and charisma. His performance alone is worth the cost of the ticket.