Reviewed by Natalie Salvo
Spring had arrived but the cold chill still swept through the Entertainment Quarter as we navigated through the maze of stalls to find the brightly lit Spiegeltent Festival Garden. The performers slowly came out of the archway and welcomed attendees with an appetiser of acrobatics, strength and athleticism. This set the mood of the night as we were transported back to the late 1800s when circus freaks were the main attraction.
The tent was draped in rich red fabrics with ringside seating and carousel-styled booths separated by a walkway with two entryways leading into the green room. The ensemble members burst out onto the stage with their first musical number keeping it upbeat and lively alluding to the mysterious man who had the appearance of an elephant.
The costumes were loosely based on late 19th-century fashion, with pops of colour mixed in with the black suits. Nurse Faith (Rebecca Rolle) and Nurse Chastity (Eleanor MacIntyre) gave us over-the-top, raunchy and rambunctious antics detailing their plans to get in with the doctor. Both nurses delivered an energetic performance that was well-received by the crowd.
The audience booed and hissed at Dr. Frederick Treves (Kanen Breen) who embodied everything an evil villain aspired to be, confident, meticulously dressed and on key with whisps of Shaun Micallef’s humour. Dr. Treves, having a hide as thick as an elephant confidently told the audience to shut up (in character) on multiple occasions which made everyone giggle.
John Merrick (Ben Clark) had the voice of an Angel mixed with Bruno Mars—pitch perfect when delivering his high notes leaving the audience members in awe, followed by applause.
The tender moments he shared with Nurse Hope (Annelise Hall) were sweet and gentle as she treated and cared for him as an equal after their initial meeting. Armoured with lungs of steel, Hope gave us powerful numbers during her solo acts and got the audience members eagerly behind her as she gave Dr. Treves the boot.
Marc Lucchesi was a master of accents, transforming into The Ring Master, Mama Mamushka and more, causing an eruption of laughter with his antics and eccentric nature with each character.
Honourable mentions must be given to the supporting cast (Lachlan Bartlett, Sam Harmon, Krystal Meyer, Gavin James, Jayan Nandagopan and Tayman Jamae) who worked the stage beautifully as a team when performing group musical numbers and seamlessly changing the props on set.
The highly skilled live band, sound and lighting technicians kept up with the up-beat pace of the show which was impressive to note as they are often overlooked when everything is running smoothly. There was the occasional minor mic-popping issue but that didn’t deter the actors from doing their big musical numbers. The show is packed with crude jokes and raunchy antics, this may not be one you bring the family to see unless everyone is over 18. Keeping in mind that this is an over-the-top fictional depiction of the real-life Elephant Man who in fact, was good friends with Dr Frederick Treves up until his untimely passing in 1890 at the age of 27.
If you love musicals and the circus, then this is one for you.
No animals were harmed in the making of the musical.