|Left to right: Emma Taviani (Hermione), Dakota Striplin (Harry) and Tom Oliver (Ron) from A Very Potter Musical.|
Overall the singing is okay, but the acting of the cast is without a doubt the highlight. The cast is helmed by Dakota Striplin who, in addition to rocking a guitar, plays the main character Harry Potter. As Harry he emits a hybrid vibe of the pretentious and egotistical side that you loathe from the movies with undeniable charm and bravado. Team Potter are completed by Tom Oliver and Emma Taviani, who play Ron and Hermione. Oliver's portrayal is bombastic and moronic, but extremely entertaining and somehow oddly endearing. He functions really well in conjunction with Taviani's square, nerdy and neurotic portrayal of Hermione. Together all three boast a great chemistry and bounce perfectly off the cast. Anthony Craig as Quirell and George Kennedy as Voldemort were both great with their voices and their fancy feet (and were adorable as a couple). It was refreshing to see Cameron Whitten not sink into the original portrayal of Snape, instead embodying the role as a high tension, hyperactive borderline insane figure. The standout actor is the phenomenal Lauren Neilson, who plays the obnoxiously androgynous Draco Malfoy. Each Neilson appeared on stage she absolutely stole the show. With the help of Malfoy's sardonic but bumbling henchmen Crabbe and Goyle (played by Lachlan Gerehhty and Nic Mohr respectively), Neilson cascades across the stage to produce ludicrous poses and acrobatic feats which are flamboyantly unnecessary and hilariously self-indulgent.
The songs are okay, most of them lacking real complexity and structure but several pieces like 'Get Back to Hogwarts' and 'Granger Danger' are catchy and really enjoyable. What the audience is there for though is the book, which is unbelievably witty, crammed full of intertextual references to the Harry Potter series, littered with ridiculous continuity errors and sporadically glorious social commentary. Interesting, this is not the first adaptation of the musical in Australia - another production was staged last December.
While some of the additions to the book worked, the majority of the content was tedious or unnecessary, and veered on being grotesque. I didn't really like the copious amount of swearing that was thrown in just for the sake of swearing - the original staging had a few profanities here and there, but it was usually reserved and utilized for moments of comic timing rather than peppering it on every throwaway comment. Dumbledore is made to look more like a senile, disgusting old man in this adaption and lost a lot of his eccentric charm. The scene where Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange are attempting to get it on in the Ministry of Magic was awkward and flat out gross. The use of American accents was hackneyed and totally inappropriate, especially considering that most of the American references (Ron's snacks, the colloquialisms etc) were omitted from this adaptation. I guess it was a request from the creators, but that doesn't make it anymore valid - especially seeing as Harry Potter is set in the United Kingdom.
The set design, including the lighting by Michael Rogerson and sound by Joel Redding work well together despite the limitations of the Studio. The lighting works wonders on such a small stage and manages to evoke different scenarios and manipulate how large the stage looks. Also, fantastic work to the person who decided to arrange the musical score to include a violin. It was really effective and managed to add an extra element to the music. The band, led by Ben Murray, were on the ball and looked like they were having a great time funking out.
All complaints aside, the audience (and I) loved this. People genuinely were having a fantastic time, cheering, tapping their toes along and singing along with the cast. The cast are supremely talented, and despite their bizarre performance with American accents they perform with phenomenal enthusiasm and commitment to their characters. The design elements are great, paired with entertaining music and an amazing book. A really enjoyable theatre event that I'm thrilled I got to experience.
A Very Potter Musical performed by Lost Boys Theatre Company was performed at MetroArts' Studio from February 1st-5th. Admission free.