Reception: The Musical
Judith Wright Arts Centre
A celebration of all things administration, “Reception: The Musical” shares the cabareted story of a frontline worker of adifferent sort, classical musical academy receptionist Bethany (writer-performer Bethany Simons) and her frantic day-to-day world of busy-work and customer service. Inspired by true stories from behind the front desk, this original 60-minute cabaret comedy, appearing as part of Brisbane Musical Festival, is a must-see for office workers and theatre lovers alike.
Written by award-winning Simons and leading Melbourne composer Peter de Jager, the show takes the form of a series of vignettes displaying the range of aspects to a receptionist’s life. The original score, performed by composer Peter de Jager on the piano is full of upbeat numbers like a ‘My Name is Bethany (Not Stephanie)’ introduction to our protagonist’s daily phone answering dilemmas and ‘Do You Have Sticky Tape’ because magic tape is indeed a powerful commodity.And the patter song introduction to ‘I can’t help but help’ wonderfully captures the mania of having 20 multi-tasked things going on at once.
Despite telling the story of someone glued to her desk all day, the one-woman show is full of movement, comic energy and entertainment. Simons showcases some lovely vocals, however, it is her mimicry that ensures that interest never wanes. Her characterisations of clients, subscriber audience member encounters and the eclectic characters who wander in to the foyer each day are highly entertaining through her jump in an out of characters both vocally and through nuanced body language. Indeed, this is a show more about performance than staging, which is appropriately minimal, adding to the intimacy of the cabaret.
Clever writing ensures that you don’t have to know about reception work or classical music to appreciate its humour around phone voices, overuse of acronym jargon and the processes of becoming initially acquainted with a new employer’s processes and the unique language of each industry. Indeed, the fact that the show is based on Bethany’s own, very relatable, experience as a receptionist, means that it comes with an appealing authenticity that celebrates the perks more than wallows in the repetition that comes with the role. Accordingly, “Reception: The Musical” presents an uplifting story of not just filing, photocopying and the anxiety of ‘type fright’, but the fun of all the drama that can be seen and heard from the front row seat to the office action.