David Gauci’s local production company, Davine Interventionz Productions, has fast earned itself an excellent reputation with three major Fringe hits in a row now.
Going against convention, Gauci produces major, full-length musicals at the Star Theaters just outside of the city, pulling an audience almost as grand as his casts.
Beginning with Altar Boyz in 2013, then Xanadu last year, Gauci now sends us further back in time to the sixties for Flowerchildren: The Mamas and Papas Story.
Through a haze of drugs, booze and personal conflicts, The Mamas and The Papas became one of the hottest bands of the era with enduring hits that are still much-loved today: California Dreaming, Dedicated to the One I Love, Monday Monday, and so many more.
Lesser known were the dramas within the band which spawned these hits, with lead songwriter John Phillips frequently basing some songs on his fellow band members and his fluctuating feelings towards them.
Phillips may have suffered for his art, finding inspiration in emotional pain, but there is nothing to suffer in this show except too much delight at Gauci’s astonishing lead cast.
Lisa Simonetti utterly shines as Mama Cass in both voice and the art of subtle acting – a look, a smirk, a playful jibe… While the real Mama Cass went on to a solo career shortly before her death, it’s a wonder Simonetti hasn’t too.
Central to the real life dramas was Mama Michelle Phillips, wife of John, and cause of most of the angst within the group it seems. Fiona DeLaine brings the complexities of the character to life, beautifully portraying all the contradictory selfishness and loving that she had to give, with a voice to make men swoon.
David Salter has one of the best male voices on the amateur stage and he proves it time and again belting out the hits as the likable alcoholic Papa Denny Doherty, and Lindsay Prodea as Papa John looks ridiculous in his fake, glossy moustache, but easily makes up for it with a strong performance as the angst-ridden song writer who holds the group together.
The six-member chorus is only marred by a modern nose ring on one of the girls but otherwise ably support the action and singing. Fiona Aitken deserves special mention for her comical portrayal of Mama Jill Gibson who replaced Mama Michelle for a Canadian tour.
Musical Director Emma Knights is a name worth knowing if you don’t already, with a sure sign of quality attached to everything she seems to do. There’s no exception here with her 7-piece band matching the sensational singing.
Shenayde Sarti’s choreography successfully mimics the style of several eras as time passes, never overwhelming the songs or action but certainly standing out its own right. So too do the costumes adapted from Christina Logan-Bell’s original designs for the 2013 Melbourne production.
Staged on a practical but unfortunately cheap-looking set, David Gauci has created another sensational musical premiere for Adelaide. Despite the 3-hour running time, it’s tight, tense and terrific. Flowerchildren is not a happy play but the music is what takes you down memory lane and it carries you home and beyond with a smile.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 5: 4
Venue: Star Theatres, 145 Sir Donald Bradman Drive, Hilton
Season: 4 – 7March 2015
Duration: 3 hours (with interval)
Tickets: $27.50 – $32.50
Bookings: Book through FringeTix online or at a FringeTix box office (booking fees apply)