‘Bad Girls – The Musical’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by July 29, 2016

‘Bad Girls – The Musical’ has a storyline based on the original tale by Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus, blended with the popular ITV drama series that ran for 7 years in the UK. The catchy music and hilarious lyrics were added later by Oxford, psychology graduate, Kath Gotts.  The musical was first staged in Leeds in 2007, and then arrived in the West End of London a year later, having had one song removed.

This two and a half hour WA premiere is a Blak Yak Theatre production, and it can be seen at the Chrissie Parrott Arts space, 4 Sussex Street, Maylands on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8.00, until Saturday 13th August. There is also a Sunday matinée on 7th August at 2.00 pm.

Established in 1993, Blak Yak is an award-winning, not-for-profit, community theatre group that gives anyone with talent – whether acting or behind the scenes – a chance to try something new or daring. They produce several genres of quality theatre, helping people to develop their ideas.

 

The scene is of Her Majesty’s Prison, Larkhall. Around the perimeter of the large, floor level stage is an iron-framed cell bed, an office, gents’ toilet and a settee. A cell security door (convincing, Michael McAllan, Adam Shuttleworth), on castors moved around the stage. Central were cafeteria tables and chairs. Well done Stuart Porter, production manager and Michael McAllan, stage manager

 

      A diminutive, petrified, drug dealer, Rachel (Tay Howard) is abusively ‘greeted’ by the worn-out, harsh Senior Officer, Sylvia ‘Bodybag’ (Lisa Skrypichayko). The new G-Wing Governor, Helen Stewart (Cassie Skinner) is a little more sympathetic to this prison ‘virgin’.

       Principal Officer Jim Fenner (Tom Hutton) and Bodybag are furious when the meddlesome Wing Governor repeatedly appears on their territory. Because Rachel is upset, Fenner offers to give her special attention. On hearing, there is a new druggie inmate; murderer Shell (Sarsi Grace) and her rough partner in crime, arsonist Denny (Helen Kerr) also want to advise Rachel on prison routine.

       Rachel dobs-in Shell to Fenner. Governor Helen wants to help Nikki (Joanna Tyler) – who killed a rapist – win her appeal. Bodybag and Fenner are furious that this troublemaker is getting privileges, but the Governor Helen is adamant. Seeing his power being drained from him, Fenner decides to create problems for Helen, by maliciously hinting to ‘Number One’, The Governing Governor (Dean McAskil) of Helen’s naiveté with the inmates.

      Shell hears of Nikki’s special treatment and starts a fight, with ASBO shoplifter, Noreen (Sherryl Spencer) shouting rude hints as to where Nikki should be kicked. Nikki becomes the scapegoat. A couple of sex-starved, thieving prostitutes, Julie J (Hayley Currie) and Julie S (Sam Jade) who want to be thought of as one, receive bad news from Helen about a family member.

     Another new arrival, with a renowned gangland reputation is Yvonne (Caroline Perks) who immediately threatens Shell’s dominance. Yvonne has hidden talents for winning over the girls on her wing. Nikki starts a surprise romance, as does the shy, nervous young warder, Justin Mattison (Daniel Buckle).

     The tension rises and after days in their cells, a Bible-thumping thief, Crystal (Thérèse Cruise) sings her opposition to the regime.

     With such a fine balance between the dedicated and corrupt staff, and the first-timers and the hardened criminals, will evil eventually overtake goodness?

 

Highly experienced director, Lorna Mackie, has a magical touch with musicals. Her last show, ‘Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens’ was off the planet fun. This show has a serious theme, but is crammed with humour. On selecting the cast, Lorna had to choose people who could give convincing dramatic performances, sing well and dance. Simple? How often have we seen strong performances and then the actor sings nervously off key? In this magnificent show, the acting was excellent, thankfully every member of the cast had powerful, melodious voices that could get them in any major musical in Perth. They sang with full emotion. The libretti for the dozen tunes were meaningful. The songs ranged from the anger packed ‘One Moment’ performed by frustrated Nikki, to the heart-breaking ‘Sorry’ sung with tears rolling down her face, by Julie S. Several of the singers, such as Shell and Crystal, could belt out numbers, and still keep perfect control. Not a single bum note.

The musical director, Andrew Partington, did a superb job. His live piano accompaniment was played with feeling and as a garnish to the singer’s voice, not in competition.

Choreographers, Joanna Tyler and Thérèse Cruise had several styles of dancing to bring to the stage. There was the tongue in cheek fun of the warders’ soft-shoe shuffle, tap dancing, long-legged, ‘Tiller Girl’- style formation dancing and modern jazz. The cast just went for it; enjoyed performing and the audience revelled in their fun.

Elizabeth McAskil smoothly operated Don Allen’s complex lighting design. Sound designer, Graeme Johnson cleverly noticed the possible reverberation problem of the venue, placed the speaker carefully and kept the volume at a sensible level. Good operation by Emma Coyle.

With tickets at a sensible price for this superb show, try not to miss it. The clever words of the songs are hilarious, but have strong adult content. The show is saucy, sad, threatening, but most of all it is uplifting. I left the theatre feeling satisfied at having had a wonderful night’s entertainment. Sadly, just as the audience were rising to give a standing ovation, the stage lights dimmed and the cast made an exit, not fully aware of the audience’s immense enthusiasm.

Want a show filled with fine acting, emotion, powerful melodic singing, dancing and comedy? This is your show.