Douglas Mayo reviews Summer Street – The Hilarious Aussie Soap Opera Musical by Andrew Norris now playing at Waterloo East Theatre.
Waterloo East Theatre
16 May 2019
As an Aussie, I remember growing up when Neighbours and Home And Away first hit the air. Neighbours initially lasted a few weeks before it was axed, transferred to a new network and partially recast creating a hit. With both shows still on the air in many countries around the world, it's not a surprise that the Aussie soap has found itself subject to musicalisation – well sort of.
For Andrew Norris has created this Aussie soap opera musical with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Everything is fair game, from the location to the actors and the diabolical scripts. So we find ourselves at the fifth-anniversary reunion of the cast of Summer Street, a now axed soap that ran for some fifteen odd years on the telly. What made Sumer Street unique is that it was a musical soap! Capitalising on the pop success of members of other soaps Summer Street looked to create stars and hits through the musicalisation of soap.
As a musical theatre nut, I honestly thought I might be going to see something akin to entering the seventh level of hell, but I'm happy to say that was far from the case. The tunes like the premise are pure parody, with a liberal dose of something that just might sound like Stock, Aitken and Waterman. Do the songs further the plot? Sort of…maybe! They are quite catchy though and pretty vacuous but when you look at the characters in this soap they fit right in.
Our four ex-cast members Steph (Julie Clare), Bruce (Simon Snashall), Paul (Myke Cotton), and Angie (Sarah-Louise Young) haven't faired well since the demise of the show, they hope that this special might just help them get back up again. Who cares if the characters they played were nearly all killed off before the soap finished, this is a soap!
This terrific ensemble comfortably inhabits the world of Summer Street, both on air and backstage. Special mention must go to Myke Cotton's fabulous cap completely with inbuilt mullet which made me laugh out loud several times.
The fragmented structure of the show for me tended to stop any sort of natural flow to the comedy, but with four larger than life types on stage you don't get a lot of time to think about it. Remarkably good Aussie accents are in place (Steph occasionally slipped into Sth African) but it's in the right hemisphere so she's forgiven. Norris has given his Summer Street characters familiar names Dr Marl and Mrs Mingle to name but a few and the situations and characters generated laughs and a general nostalgic feeling of decades past without audiences needing more than a cursory knowledge of Aussie soaps.
It makes for just on two hours worth of light entertainment rich with comic nostalgia for shows that took over people's lives and British panto. Norris looks at the Aussie soap phenomena very much from the point of view of a Brit and there were a few moments when I was proud that one of Australia's greatest television exports had been so taken to heart then lovingly lampooned by fans, Norris amongst them.
As the show settles I'm hoping that a few little bugs might resolve themselves, particularly regarding the speed of the delivery which left some of the soap dialogue a bit garbled diminishing the comic impact.
Summer Street is a good laugh, the songs (many far more memorable than last night's Eurovision entries) will put a smile on your face and take your mind off the real world for just a moment. After all soap is all about escapism.