Bare: A Glowing Review

Photography Credit: Jeannie Fong

Michele Theil gushes about MTS' Main Term Production, Bare: A Pop Opera.

Musical Theatre Society’s (MTS) exceptional performers and crew members were laid bare last night in the explosive Bare: A Pop Opera. This largely niche musical by Jon Hartmere and Damon Intrabartolo has been brought to our attention due to Director Anthony Underwood’s brave decision to stage it – a decision that paid off immensely.

George Lambourne and Daniel Edwards were amazing in their roles as Peter Simmonds and Jason McConnell, the couple that this entire show was centred on. They were extremely convincing and effective in portraying the emotion required of the show – which is a testament to their skills as actors. The chemistry between Lambourne and Edwards was really great, as was the chemistry between Edwards and Molly Cheesley, who plays his sister Nadia. Their brother-sister relationship was also very convincing, particularly during the song ‘Plain Jane Fat Ass’, a song that represents the insecurities felt by many young girls. Cheesley deliberately overplayed the jealousy and hilarity that accompanies her character and it worked to her advantage. Compared to Keili Lefkovitz’s version of the song, I prefer Cheesley’s portrayal much more.

Ciara Murphy’s Ivy was simply wonderful. Her voice was perfect for the songs that she was given and she portrayed her character extremely well. She managed to induce both sympathy and frustration simultaenously throughout, a difficult thing to pull off. The tears and anguish that were felt during the hauntingly beautiful ‘All Grown Up’ was great and allowed the audience to really believe in the story she was telling.

 

Peter’s mother, played by Elinor Boult, skated between being mildly homophobic to simply being scared for her son. Her solo early in Act Two, ‘Warning’, led to many tears from the audience members and definitely tugged at my heartstrings. It was a reminder of the fear and lack of acceptance that can accompany coming out and I related to it immensely.

Sarah Cowan’s Sister Chantelle was the sassy woman you always wished you were. Her Gospel-esque solo, ‘God Don’t Make No Trash’, was funny and heartwarming and definitely lulled the audience into a false sense of security at the eleventh hour.

The priest, an important but harsh character, played by the wonderful Robbie Caprari-Sharpe, appears at the beginning of the musical during ‘Epiphany’ and is largely absent until the end of Act Two. At a critical moment in the show, Caprari-Sharpe comes in like the savior he is meant to represent, but fails to do any saving. It is a difficult scene and a difficult role to portray considering the gut-wrenching ending to the show. Caprari-Sharpe said that “the show has been cathartic” for him due to the nature of it, as he is “gay and Catholic” and has found it “soothing for the soul to play the priest”. He has also “enjoyed every moment of it” and said that it is “nice to be able to show something like this to people”.

 

Characters like Tanya (Lula Safira), Zach (Robbie Caprari-Sharpe), Diane (Isabella Mansell), Matt (Marcus Jones), Kyra (Emily Bradbury) and Rory (Alicia O’Neill) were often relegated to the background as the main-line plot played out but they were no less important or eye-catching. Their funny costumes and interesting props, such as a penis-shaped piñata and a tied-up chain of lace underwear, helped to draw the audience’s attention to the funny side-plots that were happening around us. Underwood and his team clearly put a lot of thought into the costumes and props, allowing them to provide background hilarity in an overall heartbreaking show.

A special mention must go to Josh Berrington, who played the lad-ish Lucas, and managed to rap about ketamine during the hilarious song ‘Wonderland’. While his rapping was unexpected, it went down very well among the audience, who were in hysterics throughout the song. Having listened to the cast recording of Bare that is available on Apple Music, I can honestly say I enjoyed Berrington’s rendition ten times more.

Throughout the show, one thing that stood out was the beautiful choreography. Jennie Brunskill did a wonderful job of creating dance sequences that really stood out in the show. Even small movements that were very natural had the grace and poise that accompanied every choreographed move. Set changes were executed very effectively by the crew. Well done to the Musical Director, Flynn Sturgeon, and the entire band, who worked very hard to play almost continously throughout the show.

 

Lambourne told me afterwards that “the show has really opened [his] eyes on the issues surrounding sexuality”, which is what he’s “taken away most from the show”, something that I think a lot of people can agree on. Boult meanwhile said that she found it “quite challenging, as someone who is in the LGBT community, to play someone who is mildly homophobic” but she has enjoyed it as well.

Underwood said that he chose to stage this show because “the message is so prominent” and he really wanted to showcase it. He gushed that “the cast and crew have been so wonderful throughout the process” and that he “couldn’t have asked for a better cast or crew for [his] final show”.

The show ends abruptly and you’re left wondering what just happened – but that is the inherent beauty of it. And the cast and crew have done it perfectly. Many audience members were left crying at the end, but that is not a deterrent to watching this brilliant show – just bring tissues when you go!

Bare: A Pop Opera is in Jane Holloway Hall on Thursday March 15 and Friday March 16.

Tickets are available from the SU website now. Photography provided by Jeannie Fong.