The sparkling new Aussie musical cousin to Muriel’s Wedding

The sparkling new Aussie musical cousin to Muriel’s Wedding

April 23, 2022

THE DEB, Rebel Theatre, Pier 2/3 Walsh Bay, April 22


She dreams of tulle and tiaras, but the awkward teen’s biggest dream is to fit in. Yet dreams can turn to dust in her drought-stricken country town.

For Taylah (Katelin Koprivec), the forthcoming Debutante Ball is her chance to shine. For her slick, abrasive cousin Maeve (Charlotte MacInnes), newly arrived from the big city, the ball is simply a ‘hetero-normative shit-show’. The pair don’t make for natural allies, but they do make for terrific comedy in this home-grown coming-of-age musical.

Katelin Koprivec and Charlotte MacInnes shine as cousins in this feel good musical. Credit:Tracey Schramm

With a deft and light touch, the show interweaves themes of peer pressure, rural neglect and tradition versus social change.

Small-town fictional Dunburn is lovingly and economically evoked in a world where footy, Carols in the Carpark and the coming-out ball are the centre of the social calendar. It’s a constrained and conventional world in which Taylah must learn how to celebrate her difference.

There are many “debs” associated with this production, not least the intimate theatre itself. It is the first in the ATYP’s new 196-seat theatre, The Rebel.

The production blends young talent with seasoned performers. Tara Morice delights as the prim bridal shop owner, the aptly named Shell, whose pastel exterior conceals a glorious red-hot centre.

Jay Laga’aia is the warm-hearted mayor attempting to hold his struggling community together and get Canberra’s attention in the face of drought and a devastating fire.

There are echoes of Muriel’s Wedding in the premise but witty lyrics and witty lyrics by Hannah Reilly and the music of Megan Washington sets it apart.Credit:Tracey Schramm

In the fire’s wake, the Prime Minister arrives in a Hawaiian shirt, fresh from his tropical holiday in time for the ball – and too late to hold a hose. Oh, how we laughed.

As Taylah, Koprivec is a strong presence and vocally assured lead. Misfit she might be, but it’s clear from the outset she is no shrinking violet.

She is well-matched in MacInnes as her foil Maeve, the brittle cousin who learns the value of friendship and to temper her tirades. Their duets, particularly the centrepiece In the Spotlight, were among the highlights of a production that sparkles like a debutante’s gown.

Co-director Hannah Reilly maintains a cracking pace in the piece which she conceived and for which she won the 2019 Rebel Wilson Comedy Commission.

There are echoes of Muriel’s Wedding in the premise, but Megan Washington’s fine original music – from ballads, hip hop, country, and rap – with witty lyrics by Reilly and Washington sets it apart.

The young female cast has the stronger, more defined roles, but athletic choreography (Sally Dashwood) showcases the male talent.

With some tightening of the overly busy middle, this is an otherwise polished production and worthy of a life beyond.

Smart, satisfying Aussie musicals are rare. This one breaks the drought.

The Deb runs at the Australian Theatre for Young People until May 22.

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