Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Fangirls

Fangirls
Music, book, lyricist: Yve Blake
Director: Paige Rattray
Seymour Centre
January 30 – February 29, 2021

Funny, fast-paced and extravagantly joyful, the exuberant and inventive musical Fangirls lovingly celebrates the millions of teenage girls for whom a crush on a pop idol is a real and transformative experience.

Its story centres on Eddie (Karis Oka), an imaginative 14 year old, who is struggling to come to terms with being a scholarship girl in a private school and the pressure of a single mother (Sharon Millerchip) anxious for her daughter to make the most of this opportunity. Eddie’s current obsession with Harry-of-the-perfect-hair from the boy band “True Connection” creates tension between them, and Eddie’s rudeness to her mother, a sympathetic figure in blue scrubs and a dowdy cardigan, is painful to hear.

Eddie’s best but not so reliable friends, the sensitive but uncourageous Brianna (Shubsgri Kandiah) and robust and manipulative Jules (Chika Ikogwe), while sharing her adulation of Harry – whose image proliferates on pillow slips, bean bag, bedspread and video screen – are not so deeply emotionally invested. While Jules ridicules Eddie’s conviction that Harry feels “trapped” in his life, Eddie’s fictional scenarios in which she and Harry (Aydan) run away together are well received by the warm-hearted Saltypringl (James Majoos), a queer fanboy, who finds freedom through internet fandom.

Eddie’s insistence that she alone understands Harry alienates her from her school friends with heartbreaking consequences. The cheerfully mean-girl Jules is keen to point out that Eddie will never have the opportunity to meet Harry but when “True Connection” announces that they will venture to the Antipodes to gratify their Australian fans, suddenly it seems that the real-life Harry may be reachable after all. The obstacles to the coveted union seem almost insurmountable … but do not underestimate the strength of teenage passion to achieve the impossible dream.

The songs are wonderfully and painfully worded teenage anthems, the choreography sassy – an exception Eddie’s endearingly awkward solos in her bedroom – and the costumes  and props – in particular a smartly performed number in iconic silver outfits and boots – comment wittily on the pop scene. Visually, Fangirls is equally absorbing. The sparkling backdrop with which the play opens and which captures the tone of the whole, gives way to numerous video-screen backdrops with some well-timed and god-like appearances of he-of-the-perfect-hair. Also eye-catching is the rainbow fairy/gymnast (Ayesha Madon) who circles the stage with wand and streamers at up-beat moments.

Altogether a dazzling production directed with affection by Paige Rattray and performed with relish by its endearing cast, who must be congratulated on the speed of their costume changes.

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