What: bare – the Musical
Where: Chapel off Chapel, South Yarra, Melbourne
Performances run until 15 April, 2018
For more information, please visit www.stageart.com.au/bare-2018
It’s very rare a musical wows me, but StageArt’s production of bare – the Musical exceeded all expectations. This is something else, something special and something that touched me in ways I can’t begin to explain.
Perhaps, I’m putting too much of myself into this, but it made me feel.
As their Instagram states, “an honest depiction of consequence. People will relate and reflect to their own lives, learn and understand a stronger empathy and leave the show wanting to scream love is love.”
This rings true.
It is very difficult to fault because, even with very minimal dialogue, everyone can (and will) get something out of it. Sure, I could nitpick, but I don’t feel the need or desire to to this very solid production.
I think bare works on that element of surprise, so I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot. With strong themes about religion, sexuality and identity, the overall story is about love – as most things are. From the outside, you may see someone has the perfect life but everyone is hiding something, just as everyone has their story and motives. We make mistakes and lie to ourselves – and those consequences and dealings are put here on display.
Set in a catholic boarding school, the characters are easily relatable – whether you’re that tortured fat kid, falling in love, or someone in need of guidance.
I wanted to cry (I might have) with antagonist Peter. Played beautifully by Adam Di Martino, you feel every moment of heartbreak, joy, sadness confusion and frustration, often told silently, through his eyes. Peter’s journey is of acceptance from his peers, boyfriend Jason (Finn Alexander) and family. I loved Peter’s naïve, adolescent faith, especially during the euphoric You and I and Act II’s opening Wedding Bells.
I could just as easily relate to self-loathing and angsty Nadia (played by the wonderfully comedic Hannah Grondin). Her delivery of Plain Jane Fat Ass was all kinds of wonderful and of great contrast to the later, A Quiet Night At Home. As I could to the beautiful but troubled Ivy (Hannah McInerney), who would (and does) give up everything for love. Ivy’s All Grown Up was another favourite.
Chantelle (Vanessa Menjivar), Lucas (Tom New) and (HaNy Lee) add needed, welcome light and comedic moments. Rounding out the cast is Matt (Jake Fehily), Tayna (Morgan Heynes), Kyra (Stephanie Marion Wood), Priest (Quin Kelly), Zach (David Curry), Rory (Zenya Carmelotti) and Alan (Jye Cannon).
There are no weak players (It’s important to note too that this may be the first musical I’ve ever seen where everyone has equally impressed me).
Lighting plays such a strong importance here – adding layers of mood and dramatics in ways I’ve never seen before – especially poignant during Mandi Lodge’s (Claire) breathtaking and powerful performance of Warning, during Act II.
The set is minimal and changed as needed – two sets of student lockers, a desk, bed and half a dozen chairs – but nothing more is needed. Good direction, costumes and choreography (especially during Wonderland and Rolling) also add to the show.
I can best describe it as Rent meets High School Musical, making it like a musical Degrassi, with elements of Dear Evan Hanson, with those dramatic relationships and conflicts. Its music too, is catchy, modern sound with a slight-rock edge.
I could go into my personal feelings regarding religion and sexuality (which naturally, some people may have issues with), but remove that from the story, the key moral is staying true to one’s self and one’s heart. Of course, this is easier said than done and we often look for guidance where there is none – but it’s a musical that definitely makes you think and reflect (as I am doing now), and no matter what your personal feelings are, as I said earlier, you will take something powerful away.
With tickets starting at an affordable $49, it’s an underrated gem that could easily take favourite over the larger-theatre big wigs. My advice is to sit in the middle of the theatre, because much of the set is seen best from the centre.
I’ve included the website’s synopsis below in case you feel like you want to know more about the plot, but I do recommend going in on empty.
Through its pulsating rock score and emotionally charged story, bare has thrilled and moved audiences around the world. The Victorian professional premiere of the contemporary cult classic pop opera is set at a Catholic boarding school in the early 2000s.
The students are struggling with religion, sexuality and identity. While rehearsing Romeo and Juliet, parallels are drawn between the play’s star crossed lovers and students Peter and Jason. Peter is preparing to come out to his mother but Jason wants to keep their relationship a secret in fear of losing his status as a popular athlete, while he is also being pursued by Ivy, the beautiful but troubled girl with a bad reputation.
Provocative, raw and unapologetic in its depiction of how its generation navigates the tightrope between adolescence and adulthood; with a unique sung-through pop score and soul-bearing lyrics, bare explores the dangers of exposing your soul, and the consequences of continuing to hide.