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Review: Firebringer

At the dawn of man, a cave-dwelling tribe discover fire and all the dangers and joy it can bring as they begin their path of evolution.

Presented by Phoenix Variety and Music Group
Reviewed 27 May 2022

A caveman musical doesn’t exactly sound like a good idea until it’s revealed that it comes from the minds of StarKid Productions, writers of the Harry Potter spoof, A Very Potter Musical.

Told in modern language with a whole lot of cussing, Firebringer tells the story of a tribe of homo erectus cave dwellers, struggling to understand the outside world and praying to false gods until they accidentally discover fire and take control of their destiny. The trial and error of their lives and their journey to standing tall is both clever and funny. The simplest of ideas turn into worthy jokes and visual gags. The story, by Nick & Matt Lang and Brian Holden is genuinely humorous and warm-hearted, while the songs and music by Meredith Stepien and Mark Swiderski are extremely witty, adding much to this wacky tale of evolution.

Phoenix Productions is doing another of StarKid’s comical musicals, The Trail to Oregon! later this year. With similar staging, Firebringer is a promising warm-up to what they might bring to it. Under first-time director Chelyah Tandler and choreographer Annette Paterson, Firebringer is full of laughs, but is often an eyes-to-the-front concert when it comes to the songs. Thankfully, Jasmine Gosewinkel’s audio arrangement sounds very good and doesn’t drown out the cast.

The show moves along at a comfortable pace with a mixed cast of experienced and new actors on stage. Their line delivery can land a joke, but diction and confidence are often a problem; something vocal director Emma Lynn needed to focus on, for the songs in particular. There’s an equal mixture of quality in the singing voices and harmonies, with Marley Banham and Sam Mannix being the musical standouts. Snaps for Kitarni Upton too, for the best characterisation as cave-comedian Schwoopsie. With better diction and more confidence in her voice, the show could have belonged to her.

Firebringer is a surprisingly good comedy despite the dubious premise. The cast work as an ensemble and move around each other smoothly on the small stage. You may feel like you’re lost in a cave trying to find the venue in the night but there is a flickering light worth finding when you get there.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Venue:  Noarlunga Uniting Church, 23 William Road, Christies Beach
Season:  until 4 June 2022
Duration:  2.5 hours
Tickets: $20
Bookings:  https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing/887275

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