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Yellow Line Theatre: Beaudy - Review by Tracy Payne

There is nothing sleepy about Michael Orland’s adaptation of Sleeping Beauty. With an Australian setting and a constant undercurrent of dry Australian wit, this original musical adaptation of the classic tale brings joy and laughter to its audience.

Directed by Lauren Bacon-Fleming, the talented ensemble cast brings the classic fairytale to life, adding new dimensions of humour, pathos, and depth to characters often sidelined within the hero-heroine focus of traditional fairytale appropriations. The music is predominantly upbeat, adding to the sense of fun, but the show has been designed with a strong focus on characterization, so each time there was a shift in style or tone it was a very intentional choice designed to reveal more about the character being featured. As such, amidst the upbeat rhythms, the audience was treated to moments of strength and vulnerability through the vocal skills of the cast and the sensitive musical direction of Koren Beale. The vibrancy of the music was achieved with a very small team of musicians; they worked so well together that more was not needed. So, kudos to Peter Thornton, James Tredinnick, David Pierce, Ashleigh Cullen, and Koren Beale for providing such a strong foundation for the onstage cast to shine.

Speaking of the cast... I’m a huge fan of ensemble productions, and this performance was a testament to what a strong, unified cast can achieve. Lauren Bacon-Fleming (Director), James Tredinnick (Producer), Brooke Rose (Choreographer) and Koren Beale (Musical Director) are to be commended for their casting and their efforts to establish such a strong team. All members of the cast assume multiple roles across the two acts, but much of the responsibility for creating the breadth of characters within the tale lies with the chief ensemble players Stephanie Bellchambers, Caitlin McDougall, and Mitchell Wassnick. These actors were engaging and enthusiastic, adding extra moments of humour and energy whenever they were onstage. Their vocals were strong, their dancing was energetic, their physical comedy was brilliant, and they were always in character.

This is such a great ensemble production that I’m reluctant to reference “leads,” but I want to give credit to the actors who presented the featured characters. The classic fairytale prince (Tom ‘Prints’ Jones) and princess (Laura Henderson) were brought to life by Luke Brown and Sophie Brown. Their portrayals were true to the modern Australian setting without leaning into stereotype and, at the same time, true to the fairytale trope without becoming cliché. Their duets in song and dance were lovely, but their solo moments were the true standout. Luke’s vocals were powerfully emotive, especially in Act II, and Sophie’s beautiful voice effectively portrayed the vulnerabilities of her character.

The gift of this appropriation, however, was the development of characters often overlooked by the traditional fairytale. Hence, the roles of Laura’s father (Jacob Fleming), the godparents (Kate Simmons and Daniel Conway), the villain (Fiona Brennan), and the villain’s henchman (Jordan Anderson) were key to making “Beaudy” more than just a retelling of an old story. How does a father cope with the loss of his wife, the threat of a curse upon his daughter, and his responsibilities of his kingdom, or in this case a country town? How do godparents manage the step into parenthood and cope with the responsibility of raising and protecting a child whose life is in danger? How do relationships survive times of crisis and the pressures of life and work? “Beaudy” attempts to answer these questions.

Jacob Fleming’s portrayal of Edward Royal was heartfelt and convincing. His sung soliloquies were particularly stirring. Daniel Conway and Kate Simmons, as Laura’s godparents, delved beautifully into the complexities of marriage, parenthood, and the universal struggle of work-life balance. Conway and Simmons are strong vocalists and accomplished performers who took their characters beyond stereotypes to reveal the true-to-life dichotomies of love and hate, hope and fear, strength and vulnerability. Their duet in Act 2 was my favourite moment of the whole production.

But what is a fairytale without its villain? “Beaudy” had an awesome villain! Part wicked witch, part evil property developer, part manipulative cougar, the character of Patrice Buttland is pure gold, and Fiona Brennan’s portrayal was perfect. She was bold, she was sassy, she commanded the stage every time she entered, and she dominated the space with her powerful vocals. Credit should also go to the lighting and costume teams for the brilliant interplay of purple and green to highlight her moments of true evil. And, of course, every villain needs a sidekick, and “Beaudy” created a brilliantly funny one in the affable Shane “the Brain,” brought to life with hilarious energy by Jordan Anderson. Anderson’s comic timing was on point, and the way that he and Brennan worked together was a gift to the audience. They were so funny!

Such an energetic show requires great choreography, and Brooke Rose met the challenge. The stage space was limited, but Rose worked well to ensure that the choreography enhanced the narrative and brought new levels of energy to the songs.

I feel like I’ve used the words “energetic” and “funny” a lot in this review, but that’s exactly what “Beaudy” is. This production is positive, entertaining, and funny. Every element exudes energy and heart. I give this 3.5 Red Plastic Party Cups out of 5.

Photos courtesy of Geraldo Rodrigues 

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