Scott Theatre, University of Adelaide, Kintore Avenue
Reviewed Saturday February 27th 2010 (See Festival Guide for dates, times, etc.)
Presented by The Adelaide Festival, in association with State Theatre Company of South Australia.
A Company B and Black Swan State Theatre Company Production
http://www.adelaidefestival.com.au or 1300 FRINGE (374 643)
Bookings: BASS outlets 131 246 or http://www.adelaidefestival.com.au
The Sapphires were four indigenous sisters; Gail, Kay, Cynthia and Julie McCrae, who had moved from a country town to live together in Melbourne and who formed a vocal quartet. In 1969 they were discovered at a local talent quest at St Kilda’s Tiki Club and embarked on a tour of war-torn Vietnam, entertaining the troops. Playwright Tony Briggs wrote the script, basing it on the true story of his mother and aunts.
Although this work documents their tour and touches on a range of subjects, many quite sensitive, it does not delve too deeply into the serious issues, such as being Aboriginal in the 1960s or the futility of the war in Vietnam. It is the music that is central to this work and there is plenty of it. Assistant Musical Director, Simon Burke, leads the quartet from the keyboards, with Ben Collins on saxophone, Andrew Weir on guitar and Daniele Di Paola on drums. They play up a storm behind the four singers.
Christine Anu plays eldest sister, Gail, a rather cantankerous and bossy young lady but fiercely protective of her sisters. Kylie Farmer is second eldest sister, Kay, a quiet achiever and in complete contrast to third sister Cynthia, played by Casey Donovan, who is an extrovert who is ready to try anything once. Finally there is Julie, the youngest sister, played by Hollie Andrew. Gail and the others think that she is too young to have left home and do not include her in their vocal trio, but she sneaks out and follows them to the Tiki Club and gets up and starts singing with them, lifting the whole sound of what then becomes the quartet.
These four terrific singers recreate the Sapphires in a top notch production filled with toe tapping soul and Motown songs that include R E S P E C T, Stop: In the Name of Love, I Heard it on the Grapevine and a host of others, including a beautiful rendition, with rich harmonies, of Bura Fera, sung in the Yorta Yorta language. You will not often get the chance to see so much great talent on the one stage at the same time.
Oliver Wenn provides plenty of laughs as their less than efficient manager, Dave, who falls for Gail, Jimi Bani is equally hilarious as Jimmy, Cynthia’s AWOL boyfriend, Kenneth Ransom is the dashing helicopter pilot who falls for Kay and Aljin Abella is the 14 year old Vietnamese boy who steals anything that is not nailed down, cons Dave out of money and endears himself to everybody in the process.
The set lighting and, most of all, the fabulous costumes, evoke the era and locations well and the pace and polished performances make this a ‘must see’ production.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, GLAM Adelaide Arts Editor.