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History meets hilarity
As The Hills Youth Theatre (HYT) celebrate 30 years of history and creating a legend of their own, history from across land and time comes to life in their production, Night at the Wax Museum: The Musical. You'll laugh out loud and you might even learn something as the hysterical meets the historical in this comic romp through the wackiest wax museum in history!
The appropriately history-themed senior student production is directed by HYT tutor Judy Sampson and based on the book by Craig Sodaro, with music and lyrics by Bill Francoeur. The story follows six unlucky students who don't know (or didn't try learning) much about history and have to re-take history class in summer school. Their first year teacher, Heather Fairchild has arranged for them to help her two aunts set up a new wax museum as a class project. Though the students' eyes glaze over with boredom, there's a twinkle in the wax figures' eyes when a mysterious incantation from the back of Cleopatra's bracelet brings them to life! A fantastic range of characters cavort in pursuit of hidden treasure, a journey through history and a few twists along the way.
From the opening number, strong characters and fantastic costumes shine through the dark milieu and the ensemble are in strong voice. Setting the scene with the title song 'Night at the Wax Museum', the audience are introduced to a range of historic iconic heroes and villains with a dark gusto. The mood is lifted with the introduction and humorous interaction between the ill-fated students. Throughout the show, the group of students wonderfully portray a classically disjointed mix of misfits, played by Fae Gehren, Ben Krieg, Madeline Mackie, Lachie King, Oliver Peterson and Holly Peter. Matilda Hilton leads them beautifully as the calm and aspiring, well-meaning teacher tasked with chaperoning a bunch of stereotypically uninspired teens to apply some learning despite her own awkward interactions and history with handyman Skip Webster, played by Riordan Miller-Frost.
At the museum, the 'oldies' reminisce on their own version of history and the secrets hidden amongst it. Imogern Deller-Evans, Yolanda Tree, Zoe Hilton, Ellie Bickerton and Michelle Stewart are a terrific chorus of shuffle, groan and grey with convincing characterisation and humour in their interaction and comic delivery. In a wily sub-plot, it seems the oldies have their own villains to defeat, led dastardly well and sung with solo strength by Georgina Clough as Violet Sneed. Connor Leinweber and Carina Crowhurst provide the comic relief to the 'bad guys' trio with goofy obedience and their own hilarious happenings.
When the wax figures are revealed, they are a stunning tableau, and still, and waxy, and still! Worthy of high commendation, the performers do amazingly well holding a vast array of waxy poses while being danced around, poked and prodded. After the incantation is spoken and the mystery unfolds, the audience meets Chloe Zodrow as a sultry but humorously aloof Cleopatra in an unexpected tryst with the regal Henry VIII, played staunchly by William Armfield. Matilda Butler plays the red-headed (ex?)wife of Henry, Anne Boleyn in a hooped dress to envy them all brings a commanding presence and character in pursuit of the aforementioned unlikely couple. Wax pirates played by Raife Gehren, Jordan Hatswell, Isabella Milne-Dirubbo and Ellie Tasker are swashbuckling with terrific characterisation in icons of the high seas Blackbeard, Anne Bonny, Mary Read and Madame Ching, respectively. Bridget Spurr, Nikhita Lanyon and Danielle Guy are a versatile trio with their own angle to watch for.
When the west meets the rest, Jordan House brings Butch Cassidy to life with Noah McKay as the Sundance Kid. Ben Proeve speaks Mexican better than a quick talking native and has the audience in stitches with his musical interludes, while Serenna Williams commands attention with wonderful her delivery of Calamity Jane, yes sirree. The mysterious interludes of Lizzie Borden, played by Taylah Huston, are wonderfully chilling and funny at the same time, and Jean Collins adds a touch of nobility to precluding complete chaos with her rendition of John Adams - the second American President.
Before and while developing characters and learning lines, all students were provided the opportunity to choose the show itself, undertake auditions, source costumes, props and sets and design their own choreography. With all of this achieved in one lesson a week, the result is incredible. The set is uncomplicated and very effective, allowing for smooth transitions and even before curtain up, sets the scene unmistakably. An amazing variety of characters lends itself to a vast array of costumes that all absolutely look the part. Choreography by Chloe Zodrow, Jordan Hatswell and Madeline Mackie makes good use of the stage, fluid movements and some intricate steps are executed well by all. Undertaking a musical amongst all the rest of this is no mean feat, especially without a musical director and the dissonant melodies of a horror genre are a challenge but delivered well.
Hills Youth Theatre is a community-based non-profit organisation that provides quality drama education and performance opportunities to children aged from 5 years through to young adult, in the Stirling and surrounding hills area. Commencing in 1986, it remains a community-based non-profit organisation which provides quality drama education and performance opportunities to students aged from 5 to 25, in the Stirling and surrounding hills areas. Weekly classes and three performances a year are run in the Theatre under tuition of Judy Sampson, Di Mason and Nick Stagg. The aim of classes is to provide a fun approach to dramatic art through practical experience, that is, drama games and other drama skills. Many former students would be able to fondly reminisce of their time at HYT and attest to the skills, value and experience learnt through drama tuition and performance.
Night at the Wax Museum delivers the kitsch, laughs and awkwardness expected of a good horror story and has been amazingly crafted by a skilled group. I am looking forward to seeing many of these talented performers gracing Adelaide stages in future performances and musicals.
There are still limited seats left to see performances at the Stirling Community Theatre, 7 Avenue Road, Stirling on:
Friday, 19 August at 7.00pm
Saturday, 20 August at 5.00pm
Sunday 21 August at 2.00pm
Kids are encouraged to come dressed as their favourite storybook character for a walk on stage!