Great expectations, mixed results
With Phillip Gould, Megan Williams, Vincent Ball, Zoe Bertram.
Limited season at the Seymour Centre, Sydney
Reviewed by Richard Ingram.
I confess that musicals are a long way from my favourite type of theatre. And my mood was probably not improved by the large proportion of the opening night audience in full formal attire. (Not that leather jackets and even track suits were missing: this is Sydney.) That said, Great Expectations left me with mixed feelings.
Its ambition — and success — in tackling Dickens' complex plot immediately raised it above trivia like 42nd Street.
The acting was generally excellent, aside from Zoe Bertram as Estella appearing unable to change facial expression. Phillip Gould as Pip was so pretty that I confidently expected him to fail at acting and/or singing, but fortunately my prejudices were wrong. Vincent Ball as Joe and Megan Williams as Biddy were superb, and came very close to stealing the whole show.
On the down side, one understands that a live orchestra would raise already pricey tickets ($39 weeknights, $42 weekend) into the stratosphere, but it is still grating to have canned music.
Also perhaps influenced by economics was the set, which hardly deserved the word except for some excellently done projections of engravings of London and Miss Haversham's house.
Songs were done with feeling and skill by all the performers, but none of the songs themselves are really memorable. One felt that the cast deserved something more to work with.