State Highway 48 has huge potential

SAM EDWARDS
Last updated 10:29 15/07/2014
State Highway 48
JUDY COULTER/Supplied

THE BOYS: Writer Chris Williams, actor Bryan Bevege, director Nick Wilkinson and musical director Trevor Faville discuss a scene in Williams’s new musical State Highway 48 at the Clarence Street Theatre in Hamilton on July 10, 11 and 12.

 State Highway 48
JUDY COULTER/Supplied
THE GIRLS: Cecilia Mooney, Kersten Hickman, Jacqui Wheeler, Julia Watkins and Maria Eaton rehearse one of the numbers from State Highway 48.

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REVIEW: In an interview Chris Williams commented: "This will resonate with anyone over 35 …"

How right he was. This is a notoriously difficult target audience but over and over Williams hit home with topics ranging from redundancy to kids coping with a broken marriage.

State Highway 48 is a tale told through a series of original songs in which both lyrics and music are enhanced by practical set design and slick scene changes.

Because the music is a constant, we know that we are watching a musical, but this is a musical which does not stick to the rules. The story emerges from 24 song sequences defined by simple but informative set rearrangements.

Lacking the connective tissue usually supplied by dialogue the narrative has a somewhat disconnected feel, and the style puts huge pressure on performers to deliver perfect clarity of diction and clearly stated musical focus, with a carefully controlled balance between them.

That balance was not always present. The sound systems at times failed to prevent the amplification delivering more power than the Clarence Street theatre could handle and diminished both dynamic range and tonal sensitivity. Yet there were some wonderful moments in the performance of the songs, especially I didn't see this coming, and the phone ‘conversation' How have you been?

There was pathos as well as humour as the two actors playing the kids demonstrated their significant performance ability (and Williamson's perceptiveness as a writer) in their poignantly ironic duet Who's gonna make my lunch?

The terrifying figure of Black Dog, superbly costumed as Depression, was memorable, but the performance was ultimately defined by the professionalism and witty understanding of that old pro, Brian Bevege, as Dave, the beset Kiwi Bloke. This world premiere indicated that here is a musical entertainment with huge potential, a show worth all the hard effort of future re-editing and re-evaluation.

What: State Highway 48

Who: Old Rocker Inc.

When: 7.30pm, 11 July

Where: Clarence Street Theatre

Director: Nick Wilkinson

Musical Director: Trevor Faville Music and Lyrics: Chris Williams

Soloist: Bryan Bevege as Dave

Reviewer: Sam Edwards

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