Rom-com rejoice

There’s Something About Music (The Little Red Company)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

February 24 – 27

There’s something about music in movies, especially those songs that have defined iconic romcoms. Luckily for Brisbane audiences, the little red company has crammed their best bits together in “There’s Something About Music”, now showing in second attempt at a season at Brisbane Powerhouse after its inaugural May 2020 outing was COVID cancelled.

After a pre-show soundtrack teen rom-com tease of the “I Want You to Want Me’ and ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ sort, Naomi Price and Lucy Maunder bust out with ‘Just a Girl’, No Doubt’s first single and “Clueless” classic, wearing plaid ensembles and over-the-knee socks in full visual embodiment of the quintessential ‘90s favourite. It’s an early indication of the attention to detail that typifies the company’s productions and adds additional interest as we realise the deliberate parallels to Price’s later beautiful yellow evening dress and Maunder’s off-the-shoulder red opera gown and white elbow gloves.

With ‘bend and snap’ snippets within Legally Blonde’s “Perfect Day” feeling-on-top-of-the-world opener and Bridget Jones’s pyjama-clad clasp of a vodka bottle before discovery of its companion Chaka Kahn, there is much to appreciate in the show’s small details as much as its showstopping numbers. Indeed, creators Adam Brunes and Naomi Price have crafted together all the genre’s recognisable tropes in the cleverest of ways, peppered all the while with some self-deprecating humour to keep the audience thoroughly entertained.

With every song sounding like it could be the finale, there is a high energy throughout as things move from a frenetic ‘One Week’ in which Luke Kennedy and Mat Verevis trumpet the song’s clever wordplay in rapid-fire interplay, through a full company ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” more-than-just-musical tribute to Heath Ledger’s charm in the iconic Shakespeare retelling of “10 Things I Hate About You” towards a lively ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ singalong to rival that in its famous “My Best Friend’s Wedding” scene. Still, as all great shows are, “There’s Something About Music” is curated to include a balance of light and shade in its moods and it is when things change pace that audience members are treated to the most memorable of the night’s musical numbers from the show’s versatile performers.

Luke Kennedy is effortlessly suave in Harry Connick Jr’s ‘It Had to Be You’, from the finale scene of “When Harry Met Sally”. As captivating as his smooth vocal sophistication is, however, the show’s standout musical moment comes from Verevis’ pitch-perfect delivery of Des’ree’s soulfully sentimental ‘Kissing You’ from the contemporary soundtrack to 1996’s “Romeo + Juliet”. His serene representation of the love theme’s essential emotions both signals his assured vocal maturity and masterfully captures the collective breath of the audience. Not only are the performers ably supported by the onstage band of Mik Easterman (drums), Scott French (guitars), Michael Manikus (keys), Jason McGregor (guitars) and  OJ Newcomb (bass), but the variety of numbers means that the musicians are also given particular moments to shine, such as when Scott French accompanies an appropriately floppy-Hugh-Grant-haired Kennedy in a simple but beautifully melodious ‘She’ themed “Notting Hill” nod.

Jam packed with trips down memory lane, “There’s Something About Music” is filled with witty banter, unrequited love and even a happy-ever-after nuptial, meaning that, like a quality mix tape, the show has something for everyone… not just romantic comedy tragics. The celebration of films that defined the rom-com genre and their soundtracks is full of feel-good fuzzies and infectious energy alike. And thankfully audiences leave from its final Wilson Phillips clap, sing and dance along “Bridesmaids” number knowing they don’t have to hold on too long to see the company’s provocative new production of Elton John’s iconic songbook, “Your Song”, at The Judith Wright Centre in late April.

Photos – c/o Jade Ferguson

Worth the wait

Waiting for John (the little red company)

Wynnum Opera House

November 15

“Waiting for John”, it’s a very clever title for the little red company’s show at the inaugural Wynnum Fringe Festival, even more so given the location of its debut performance at the former Wynnum Baptist Church, aka the weekend’s Wynnum Opera House. The show, which unites three apostles of Australian music – Mat Verevis, Mark Sholtez and Luke Kennedy, sees the trio performing original music and songs by famous Johns, including songs we all know but maybe have forgotten.

It is not long before the show’s concept is highlighted courtesy of a John Lennon classic. As the John repertoire expands through John Legend and alike we are also (partly due to an audience request segment) given opportunity to clap, click and sing along to all sorts of forgotten classics such as ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’, ‘Cherry Bomb’, ‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘Ring of Fire’ and a brilliant ‘Bennie and the Jets’ showcase of Verevis’ vocals and keyboard skills alike. And Kennedy also leads an energetic ‘Chain Reaction’ feel-good call back to his hugely-entertaining King of Pop tribute show “From Johnny to Jack”.

In compliment to this, we also hear some original songs from all three performers for the first time. Kennedy’s ‘Calling Me Home’ is a relaxing reflection on regret with slow percussions emphasising its easy-like-Sunday-evening listening appeal. Similarly, a sample from Verevis’ new EP showcases his smooth vocals and sweet falsetto. And Mark Sholtez’s stripped-back ‘Mockingbird’ is full of emotional conviction.

Perhaps a surprise highlight comes from the show’s final number, which sees Kennedy share an enticing take on Olivia Newton John’s timeless love song ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’, full of harmony in its heartbreak. While it is over all too quickly, it is a lovely way to end a show so full of nuance and overwhelming talent from a boy band unlike any you have probably seen before. Indeed, the intimate evening not only brings together its accomplished performers for a concert of biblical proportions, but it gives glimpses into the process of communication that song writing enables, which adds a little bit extra to its appeal.