Pictured (L to R): Maureen Bowra, Natalie Renouf, Jenny Usher, and Anna Welch. Liquid Lunch Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.
The talented Candy Shop Show Australia team have this year picked up where their hit, 2015 Anywhere Festival Jazz Age Dance Cabaret (music and dance from the 20s, 30s, and 40s) left off. The follow-up show— Sugar, Sugar!—is a high-energy confection of music and dance from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Miss Peppermint Twist (Maureen Bowra), Miss Skittle (Jenny Usher), Miss Everlasting Gobstopper (Nathalie Renouf) and Miss Starburst (Anna Welch) take us on a romp through iconic dances, costumes, music, headlines, toys, songs and sweets associated with each decade. The result is a program that will entertain school-age children, millennials, parents, and grandparents alike. This is a great way to re-visit times gone by. A chance to laugh at the outfits and tunes of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s…a fun evening, prompting memories of times gone by. And what a perfect venue. The Retro Bar—capturing the essence of the minimalist 60’s and psychedelic 70’s but with modern styling and retro flair—is tailor-made for Sugar, Sugar!
The 90-minute program includes two ten-minute breaks (time for a quick visit to the bar to order food or drink). As with the 2015 Jazz Age Dance Cabaret , the evening centres on songs and dance from the period. The highlight for me, of the three introductory numbers, has to be the heartfelt Liquid Lunch. Combining close harmonies, the entertainers delighted the preview audience with their heartfelt performance of a song that bemoans the after-effects of over-imbibing—where the ‘sunglasses’ were an inspired finishing touch to the costumes. Once the scene is set we get to enjoy a run down of headlines, sweets, toys, songs, costumes and dance from each era.
Led by the impressive Jenny Usher—who not only performs as Miss Skittle but is also credited as Director/ Choreographer/ Producer)—the program is clearly a collaborative work of love. Anna Welch, Natalie Renouf and Maureen Bowra join Usher on stage, and are also credited with additional choreography (and Natalie also for additional vocal arrangements).
Each of our four “sweet-hearts” can sing, dance, and undertake lightening-speed costume changes. Outfits evoked the style of each era… in often quite cringe-worthy detail (whoever thought legwarmers were appropriate over shoes?). Dance highlights include the 50s Jailhouse Rock (Elvis Presley would have been pleased at those evocative moves), the stylish 60s These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ , and an 80s mix that includes Michael Jackson’s Thriller (I Wanna Dance With Somebody/Thriller /Footloose). The singing was at its best with the close harmony work of songs such as the three Intro pieces, and of course the 60s mix (Mr Postman/Big Grls Don’t Cry/It’s My Party). And if not singing, dancing, or slipping into even more outrageous attire, the entertainers interact with the audience—reminding us all of the sweets, toys, and news-headlines of the decades.
Verdict: It’s slightly cheeky, and a lot of fun. Perfect for groups. Ideal for an enjoyable night out (with friends or family). But don’t forget about the weekend matinees; a perfect chance for Gran to bring the kids along to see just quite what she wore only a few years ago!
Congratulations to all of those who made the Sugar, Sugar! production possible—including the cast, creative team (special mention to vocal coach/music director Alica Cush, and stage manager Lucy Kelland), and the crowd-funding donors. Hats off to Richard Harrison and the The Retro Bar for creating a funky laneway bar in the Western Suburbs. And for making it available for this Anywhere Festival production. It’s a great location: loads of free parking at the back, and a bus stop at the front (visit The Retro Bar website for information on the extensive range of acts and events taking place at this local gem).
Audience tip: There are stairs. Take advantage of the breaks to sample a Candy Shop cocktail, or food, from the bar. Air-conditioned, comfortable seating. Bring a camera to take a picture with the Sugar, Sugar! team at the end of the show.
The reviewer attended a preview on 10th May, 2016. The show opens on 11th May and runs until 21 May (8 performances). Tickets available via the Anywhere Festival website—ignore any ‘date is passed’ note, and scroll down for availability (http://anywherefest.com/event/sugar-sugar/2016-05-11/ ).