By George Dixon
You know you are in for a fantastic night when the opening number starts with “It was a Dark and Stormy Night”.
Stranger Sings, a comedy Horror/Sc-Fi musical parody based on Stranger Things, a Netflix TV presentation.
As a parody, the show has a lot going for it. It takes on the storyline and interoperative humour from Stranger Things, along with solid nods to other well-recognised Horror/Sci-Fi productions.
Setting the storyline in the ’80s not only fits with the stranger things original plot, it also becomes the vehicle used to demonstrate the stereotypical overdramatised comic book freeze frame horror poses and overreaching stances—all to the delight of the audience.
Stranger Sings is a dynamic, non-stop, well-presented production; with a hilarious script on many levels, including the lyrics, choice of songs and characters.
The open stage with minimal sets is aided by conspicuous stagehands dressed in Lab-coats applying outrageous poses while rotating the backdrops or handling and retrieving props.
Ashley Taylor Tickell, the Director, has done outstanding work, utilising every part of the stage, including the apron and front of house floor. Spacing between cast and groups exhibit the typical American teenager cluster where they all seem entangled. Stage timing allowed for audience appreciation, laughter, and applause, which added to the spontaneous responses and electrifying atmosphere of the production.
Geoffrey Scarlett and Stephen McMahon, Co-Musical Directors, maintained the seamless array of musical numbers, blending with original songs, which in themselves produced involuntary laughter. Naturally, it would not be Stranger Sings without some reference to Kate Bush’s “Running up that Hill”, the send-up, added to the pleasure of the evening.
Madeline Pratt, the Choreographer, has developed a master class in parody expression. From simple freeze-frame poses to tight cluster arm movements, even astounding cartwheels and splits performed by the Demogorgon, does not miss the audience’s appreciation. I’m sure the rehearsals must have been a lot of fun. The outcome is a well-oiled, naturally presented fluid production.
The performers are well cast, not only for their character physicality but also for their intense musical and acting skills. Each complemented and supported the other. The production is fast-paced, requiring good timing and stamina. Some cast members take on dual characters.
Jess Ridler, as Eleven & Nancy Wheeler, is one such member. Ridler masterfully negotiates both roles. As Eleven, her transformation from a lost teenager to a person with psychokinetic and telepathic abilities is well structured. Her solo number, “The Dad I Never Had”, becomes pivotal for her storyline.
Stacey-Louise Camilleri – Barb Holland -plays a very sassy “bestie” to Nancy Wheeler, typically the one who is always left behind or overlooked while remaining loyal. Camilleri delightfully hams up each situation. One of the ironic scenes is the beautiful duet “Forever.” between Holland and Wheeler. It’s heartfelt and sincere. The “in-joke” for Stranger fans rests on the understanding that one of them dies. (no spoilers)
For me, the highlight song is “Barb’s Turn.” It’s a big brassy number covering several musical styles. A fantastic vehicle for Barb to go to town and belt out her feelings.
Camilleri takes it right to the edge with style and musical range. Her suite of talents includes a musical and auditioning coach, workshops on writing cabarets, a pianist, and a flautist.
Academically Camilleri has written syllabi for two musical theatre diploma courses and led ensemble voice classes. From go to whoa, experiencing the mastery of Camilleri is well worth the ticket price.
It is indeed no surprise that a musical parody based on the hottest cult production, “Stranger Things”, would come out. Yes, in America, Stranger Things is a thing. With the inaugural Stranger Things Day being November 6th, 2018, the date is based on the day “Will.” disappears.
It is not hard to believe that Stranger Sings could develop a cult following. The production is a lot of fun and laughter for fans and anyone who has not seen the TV production. The audience’s response and energy is invigorating. Everyone left the theatre with big grins, knowing they had been truly entertained. It’s a definitely not to be missed production.