State Highway 48 has huge potential
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