West End to Broadway – In the Reservoir (The Underground Opera Company)
The Spring Hill Reservoir
February 12 – 28
Hidden six meters under Wickham Terrace is one of Brisbane’s best kept secrets. The historic 140 year old Spring Hill Reservoir had remained unused for 50 years until 2014’s inaugural Underground Opera event and, following last year’s “Opera in the Reservoir”, the company is back in the historical landmark, this time for a showcase inspired by West End and Broadway classics from some fine musical theatre performers.
From a stage guilt at the centre of four wings, the acoustics are at-once intimate and soaring. And although dialogue can at-times be difficult to follow, once in song, the voices of soprano Ana Marina (renown for her stellar performances on London’s West End as Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera”), mezzo soprano Louise Dorsman (Opera Q and Victorian Opera), The Ten Tenors alumnus Bradley McCaw and baritone Lionel Theunissen (Opera Q) resonate throughout all sections of the venue.
Choreography, too, serves to enhance engagement, ensuring that no matter where in the wings audience members may be seated, they are never excluded from the musical action on stage. And luscious lighting fills the space with a stunning palette of moody hues that shifts easily along with smooth narrative transitions between segments.
Just as you can only make memorable food from the right combination of ingredients, you can’t create an effective musical mix with only the same old tunes of lore. Although the “West End to Broadway – In the Reservoir” program includes musical standards from “The Lion King” to “Les Miserables”, these are tempered with some interesting, lesser-known choices such as 2001’s “The Last 5 Years” and “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” (1996). Indeed, the latter’s ‘Cantata for a First Date’ makes for a buoyant beginning to Act Two as all four ensemble members fuss about in independent (and very comic) preening preparation for a date. Dorsman in particular, is well suited to comic numbers, as seen in her “Sweeny Todd” segment and in ‘Just One Step’ from “Songs for a New World”, in which a wealthy wife climbs out onto the window ledge of her 57th-story apartment in an attempt to get her neglectful husband’s attention.
While each performer is given opportunity to showcase their outstanding talent independently, the ensemble numbers are certainly memorable, from Act One’s closing of ‘Somewhere’ from “West Side Story” to the ultimate encore, along with emcee Bruce Edwards, of the iconic ‘One Day More’. The highlight, however, comes in Act Two, courtesy of the show’s “The Phantom of the Opera” medley, in particular Theunissen’s seductive ‘The Music of the Night’ which is both haunting and entrancing in its acoustic echo.
Whether it is to rejoice in re-acquaintance with favourite musical memories or to receive introduction to previously unfamiliar shows and songs, The Underground Opera Company’s “West End to Broadway – In the Reservoir” is a unique experience sure to satisfy musical aficionados of all ages and Brisbane history buffs alike.