Summer Street at Waterloo East Theatre
Director Andrew Norris’s love letter to the relentless optimism and brazen corniness of the Australian soap opera is several years in the making, and crikey is it a tribute. Borderline shameless in its spoofing, Summer Street is crammed full of more clichés then you can swing a wallaby at. What’s more, it’s all set to the tune of an original and unapologetically kitsch score, dripping in 80s/90s nostalgia and penned by Norris himself. Think Neighbours or Home and Away dialled up to about a 50 – with bells on – and we’re halfway there.
Following a brief run at the Brighton Fringe, this affectionate homage to all things Down Under has now officially made its debut South East. Waterloo East Theatre to be precise. The musical tells the story of four forgotten TV stars whose glory days are long behind them, and whose lives have taken on markedly different paths since being axed unceremoniously from their roles. They find renewed hope at having one last chance in the spotlight, when they are each called upon to take part in a one-off TV special based on their old soap, Summer Street. Cue madcap shenanigans, songs galore and choreographed routines purposefully made to be as jazz-handy and finger-pointy as humanly possible.
There are not-so-subtle nods to the standard soap tropes aplenty; the cast play several different characters, intentionally overact near enough every line, play way above and below their age, the plot is constantly overexplained and there are inexplicable plotlines featuring even more inexplicable characters. At one point, a stuffed dog instructs the cast through barks coming from somewhere in the rafters – which they can decipher of course – on how to rescue their friend trapped in the well. Yes, really. Hint: they’ll need some rope. There’s also a character named Sheila, because, of course, what Antipodean-themed anything doesn’t feature the name Sheila somewhere, right? The plot is fine enough and there are some easy laughs to be had, though the dialogue is a little tired. In short, there really isn’t anything new here. Summer Street confidently bills itself as a “Hilarious Aussie Soap Opera Musical”, but two-dimensional characters spouting some comical lines in a production peppered with some amusing songs does not a “hilarious musical” make.
Despite the fact the character’s lack any real depth, there are some strong performances to be seen here. Sarah-Louise Young (Angie/Bobbi/Sheila) is undoubtedly the standout and works with the material given, beautifully. Vocally she soars too, with her voice easily distinguishable in group numbers. Julie Clare (Steph/Mrs Mingle/Marlene) is also great and holds her ground well, as arguably the main character of the four. Simon Snashall (Bruce/Mick/Dr Marl) and Myke Cotton (Paul/Brock/Butch) have some notable moments, but they ultimately serve as supporting cast to what is essentially Clare and Young’s show.
Summer Street quite rightly doesn’t take itself too seriously. How could it? More fluff than substance and hammy than high-brow, this ode to Australian soap is an imperfect but feel-good affair.
Photos: Simon Snashall
Summer Street is at Waterloo East Theatre from 14th May until 2nd June 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.