By Chenoah Eljan
One beautiful Melbourne evening Dylan Marshall and Earl Marrows were sitting on a park bench together admiring the beauty before them when Marshall turned to Marrow and said: “I bet I can come up with more tree puns than you can.” And so, Pining for Affection: A Tree Musical was born. Although the accuracy of this origin story has not been confirmed by either Marshall or Marrow, there is no known evidence that it isn’t 100% true, and an entire one-hour musical brimming with puns that suggests it probably is. Pining for Affection: A Tree Musical is performed, this time around, by Stephen Amos (Tree), Gina Dickson (Possum), Ursula Searle (Princess) and Alfred Kouris (Prince Richard). They are all fantastic performers too big for the stage at The Butterfly Club.
The show is funny and often clever. The performances are enthusiastic and appropriately daggy, as if, especially Amos and Dickson, might just be mucking around for their own amusement in their parent’s basement. Dickson in particular shines; she is enormously lovable as spunky, loyal Possum and her physicality portrays a possum well.
Kouris is excellent as Prince Richard. He has genuine f*ck boi energy and such an overabundance of confidence, it is very hard to believe he is not just playing himself. He gets the best jokes of the show (well done wardrobe team) and executes them perfectly. He can count! (So can Possum, who has 99 problems but a birch ain’t one.) Kouris has a running joke at the expense of a member of the audience which he nails every time.
It is unclear why Marshall and Marrows are not touring this Australia-wide for audiences of children. Certainly, as it stands, a few tweaks would be required to make it child appropriate. But with the removal of the innuendos, some which should probably go regardless (“yes, drip on me!”), this show needs very few changes to be delightful and meaningful for children of all ages. It has some pretty great messages about personal growth and being greater than one’s ‘nature’ as well as being the hero, not the background or the sidekick, in your own story.
Most of the songs are excellent, although several, particularly the finale, would really have been lifted by a bigger cast. The standout song is “I Don’t Want A Sidekick” which is both very clever and very fun, as well as a proper earworm. It’s nicely reprised throughout the show, but if that doesn’t scratch the itch it is also available – along with the rest of the songs – on Spotify.
Yes, sometimes the vocals could be stronger. Yes, always the mics should have been louder. Yes, the stage should be bigger (and have a chorus of ten trees on it). And yes, the audience genuinely cannot stomach another tree pun by the end. But this is top quality musical theatre that is so much more than a sum of its parts. Pining for Affection: A Tree Musical is brilliant entertainment that could well compete with Broadway musicals of far bigger magnitude.