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Koala Joe, The Musical - Review

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by Brydie Wright (subscribe)
I'm a children's book author and freelance writer. Check out www.brydiewright.com for more about "Daddy & the World's Longest Poo" (Independent Author Network Finalist) & my lifestyle/arts reviews. https://www.facebook.com/DaddyandtheWorldsLongestPoo
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Children's musical celebrates Australiana
The popularity of musical theatre shows no signs of abating, with more big productions hitting the stages of Sydney than ever before. For the younger demographic, many are Disney-inspired, or based on ABC Kids programmes but how many can really be called original, or quintessentially Australian?

Based on The Dreamtime legend of Yalunda, Koala Joe, The Musical, takes great pride in its homage to Australiana, and offers a stripped-back, authentic theatre experience for primary school children, ages 5 and up. Premiering on 16th January and running until the end of the school holidays (28th January), Markus Weber and Michael Summ's new production is worth a look, and plays particularly well for groups of children, conveying at times, a kind of pantomime feel and an interactive theatre experience.

Koala Joe, Koala Joe - The Musical, Emu Productions, King Street Theatre, Markus Weber, Michael Summ, kids theatre, musicals, local theatre, independant theatre, school holidays
Photo from Koala Joe, The Musical, courtesy of Thomas Adams


The story is highly imaginative and begins with 'Koala Joe', an Australian boy (played by Cameron Woodhouse) whose life in a Swiss boarding school is made unbearable by a despotic headmaster. He dreams of the beaches and warmth of home and in his desire for escape, conjures up the spirit of Yalunda, who represents all things in nature. Her mystical presence inspires Joe to take flight (quite literally) if he wants to have any chance of escape and making it back home to his parents.

Like the stuff of Dreamtime legend, reality becomes mixed with fantasy and Joe's flight from the boarding school lands him in the Australian animal's enclosure at a European zoo, where he befriends a talking emu, koala, kangaroo, and zookeeper Jasmine, all of whom become his allies in the long journey home. Along the way, their adventure becomes quite perilous when obstacles appear in the form of some truly dastardly baddies: - the zoo warden, Mr M and the Tunnel Spook, all of whom are played with suitable malevolence by Director and Actor Markus Weber. Will Koala Joe summon the courage he needs to lead his friends, and will his pleas to Yalunda for help be enough to change the group's fortune?

Koala Joe, Koala Joe - The Musical, Emu Productions, King Street Theatre, Markus Weber, Michael Summ, kids theatre, musicals, local theatre, independant theatre, school holidays
Photo from Koala Joe, The Musical, courtesy of Thomas Adams


The musical covers a lot of ground in its 70min running time and has all the traditional ingredients of a good fantasy story to keep kids entertained and engaged. It was a delight to see the vacational care group respond positively to Koala Joe and his talking animal friends in their scenes at the zoo, then cheer them on in the climactic battle scene with the cruel Mr M. Very pantomime-like, without all the bells and whistles of elaborate staging and costuming.

Koala Joe, Koala Joe - The Musical, Emu Productions, King Street Theatre, Markus Weber, Michael Summ, kids theatre, musicals, local theatre, independant theatre, school holidays
Photo from Koala Joe, The Musical, courtesy of Thomas Adams


Koala Joe, The Musical, like many weird and wonderful children's tales before it, may come across as a bit 'out there' to adult members of the audience but there's no denying the strength of the musical compositions, which carry the production along and don't grate like many unnecessary songs in theatrical productions. The refrain of the beautiful theme song 'Take Me Home', effectively conveys Koala Joe's sense of longing for Australia and the skilful adaptation of 'Waltzing Matilda' by the captured kangaroo, is another stand out. The cast is also to be commended for playing successfully to their young audience (a typically tough crowd!) and bringing humanity and humour to their characterisations.

Koala Joe, The Musical, inspires its audience to use its collective imagination and appreciate what makes us Australian. And while not the most sophisticated production I've ever seen, it is one of the most original and it reminded me of the importance of supporting local theatre, particularly new productions for children.
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*Brydie Wright was invited as a guest
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Why? School holidays theatre for kids
When: 16 - 28 Jan, Weekdays 10.30am and 1pm, Saturdays 1pm
Phone: 0423 082 015
Where: King Street Theatre, Newtown
Cost: Adult $25; Child/Concession $20; Vacation care discounts
Your Comment
A well written article.. wasn't sure what kind of a review to expect on this musical.
by RC (score: 3|1221) 762 days ago
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