‘Class of 77’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by May 11, 2017

‘Class of ‘77’ was written in 2004, initially as a book, by Australian author, David Hines; he then added the lyrics and music later.

The City of Cockburn’s ‘pioneers of theatre’ and the Phoenix Theatre Inc. are presenting this sparkling Australian musical. The show is being performed in the Memorial Hall. 435 Carrington Street, Hamilton Hill.

This very friendly company, motivates and chaperons actors and actresses with all levels of capability, encouraging them to simply have fun and reach their potential.

Act 1 is 1977, and shows a typical bunch of high school kids. After the interval, Act 2 shows the 15th anniversary, class re-union in the same gym.

‘Class 77’ is a two and a quarter hour show that can be seen each Friday and Saturday night at 8.00 pm until 27th May. There are Sunday matinées on 21st and 27th May at 2.00 pm. The show is suitable for all ages.

 

The theatre foyer has a wonderful display of furniture and memorabilia of the 1970s. You can buy a ‘Class 77 Yearbook’ – a superb programme by Em Rose, Sally Newman and Nick West – whilst you listen to an LP being played on a portable record player.

The main set – by the Muller family – is a school gym, with tiered seating against the brick wall. Stage managed by Nikita Harwood, Luke Newman and Shaun Griffin. The lighting design was by Alex Coutts-Smith, and operated by Brett Muller; the soundscape and headsets being operated by Chris Heindl, Zoe Lavender and Jason Hawkes.

 

        It is 1992 in a city bar. International journalist, Michael (Eric Vega) has bumped into his old school friend, Bruce (Scott Baggaley – Bon Scott the second?) now an architect and married. Bruce asks if Michael is going to the school re-union, but he seems reluctant, as he is still in love with Jenny (Jayde Clark) and she may be married now so feels that he should not go.

 We are taken back to 1977.

      As Bruce cuddles Jenny’s best friend, hippy Linda (Cassandra Gorman), Michael and Jenny discuss their imminent university life, and whether they should share a flat in Sydney. Jenny announces that she is going to Canberra instead of Sydney. Michael is devastated. Linda is a free spirited girl with strange ideas, she believes that the rain forest is being ruined and that nuclear power could cause a disaster.

      As the students wait for their science class to begin, Jodie (Marlie Wänseth – first show, but great stage presence) a technical nerd, is sitting alone, refining the personal computer that she developing. A Swedish exchange student, Olga (Jennifer Hocking – good fun) arrives, who, when called a ‘chick’ starts looking for chickens. Her lack of language skills brings insults from three of the class’s losers, rev-heads Adam (Michael Baker), Greg (Jem Raven Carinan) and Brian (Christopher Doney). The three boys are desperate to get a partner for the Final Year Ball, but no one seems interested until three girls, Sue (Samantha Ferguson), Helen (Gabrielle Young) and Judy (Sylvia Mellor), who are also on the ‘unwanted’ list, negotiate with them.

 Act 2. Back to 1992

        The gym is filling up as the old students return. The barman (Aidan Mellor) is kept busy, although the retired teachers, Mrs Franklin (Brenda Gabesek-Goud) and Mrs Starr (Valerie Geeves) still ensure that the drinks are not too potent. Olga, however, has her own supply of vodka.

         Judy, Leonie (Rach Hayter) and Fiona (Rachel Vonk) sing melodically to the gathering of the ‘Fifteen Years’ that have passed. Trevor (James Buckland) is looking suave in his sky blue suit, and so tries his luck with Carah (Melissa Coleman) and Natalie (Amalea Lawrence). Across the room, red-hot Helen is dragging poor Ben (Jacob Spinks) off to a more private area.

       There is plenty to discuss, and some classmates have moved on since they left the Class of 77.

 

The musical direction was by Sean Williams who had to work with a range of catchy tunes, but the disc supplied by the copyright owners sounded ‘clipped’, lacking the quality of the high and low notes – or was it the disc player settings? With a cast of 21, with variable singing talents, the vocal direction by Darren Bilston was quite a task. The cast sang well, with several of the women having heavenly voices. Thanks to the choreography by experienced Zoe Jay and her talented 15-year old assistant, Bella Woodhouse, many of the dance numbers shone.

Director Em Rose, in charge of her first show, managed to keep the action interesting, with some good numbers. With Sally Newman and Rachel Vonk, Em Rose also designed the colourful, flower power costumes, jumpsuits and flares. The styles and colour topped off the picture.

An interesting look at life a couple of decades ago, fond memories.