Tim Finn has his wish. Two days after thoroughly enjoying Ladies in Black at The Playhouse in QPAC, I'm still humming the theme which is repeated throughout the play. Don't remember the words, but the tune is definitely an ear worm. As for "He's a bastard", yes, I remember those words very well.
This musical, despite its era and setting, resonates with all ages and vocations. The underlying motif is moving from adolescence into maturity upon leaving school, very topical at this time of year. There is another seasonal theme – Christmas and New Year, including the hectic mayhem of the Christmas/New Year sales.
The musical is based on a novel, The Women in Black by Madeleine St.John. Carolyn Burns rewrote it as a stage play, and Tim Finn of Crowded House fame composed the music. It was Tim Finn who saw the possibilities of the story as a musical when by chance he picked it up at an airport. Brisbane audiences have the privilege of experiencing this world premiere of a musical which is bound to be performed many times more than the current season.
When compared with the number of actors involved in the concurrently running musical, Les Miserables, even to the point of some actors playing two roles, this appears to be a low budget production, but don't let this put you off. The sets are magical, and the multi-talented actors fill the stage with their joie de vivre. The positioning of the musicians behind a gauzy curtain at the rear of the stage put me in mind of an ethereal oil painting. They were definitely an integral part of the performance.
Lesley is setting out on the road to adulthood via a temporary position at an upmarket Sydney department store. Here she interacts with a variety of "ladies in black " who, along with Lisa, as she prefers to be known, are grappling with the difficulties which beset society as folk in the late 'fifties sit on the cusp of the swinging 'sixties.
Their problems are not earth shattering. Lisa wants to use her undoubted academic abilities to further her studies at university. Her father sees women as incubators and household help. Fay faces infertility and all the strains this places on a marriage. Rudy has been looking for love in all the wrong places. It is their kindness and appreciation of their adopted country which has "reffos" Magda and Stefan helping solve many of these problems, but don't expect a large dose of schmalz. The sometimes black humour of the throwaway one-liners and clever lyrics had the audience laughing heartily throughout the performance.
If you are looking for a happy ending and to leave the theatre with a song in your heart, this is the feel good play for you. Goodness knows, we could do with that sort of experience in these uncertain times.
I was privileged to be a guest of the Queensland Theatre Company for this performance.