Fab Nobs Theatre, Bayswater
29 October – 12 November
I found myself back in Bayswater last night to attend the opening night of Fab Nobs Theatre’s production of Tuck Everlasting. The musical adaptation of Natalie Babbitt’s classic American novel is one that was overlooked during it’s run on Broadway in an era dominated by shows like Hamilton and Waitress, so not many audiences in Melbourne’s amateur theatre circuit, myself included, had really discovered this production until Fab Nobs’ 2022 performance season announcement.
It’s always difficult for any company in our community to put on a lesser known production but there are some occasions where a company pull off not only introducing the show to a new audience but to make it a memorable one at that. This production of Tuck Everlasting quickly demonstrated that this was one of those occasions, providing the audience with a mastered, magical experience from start to finish that could touch the hearts of all ages, whether young, old or young at heart.
For her third outing in Fab Nobs’ director’s chair, Maeghan McKenzie managed to awaken the inner child of everyone present in the theatre, cast, crew and audience to bring to life a beautiful tale of American folklore for the ages. With such a vividly imaginative creative vision complete with colourful costumes and set design, M. McKenzie let her cast’s spirits run wild to explore the wood of Treegap, New Hampshire so freely in a directorial effort that was both exact and exhilarating. After many years of experience bringing lesser known musicals to Melbourne audiences, Sally McKenzie has truly done it again as Tuck Everlasting’s musical director. She was without a doubt, the perfect person for the job as she and her band delighted the audience with a score that was simply beautiful in every way and her expertise managed to bring out the best vocal abilities in the entire cast with musical direction that was filled with adventure and amazement. The choreography presented by Kim Annette, who has dedicated decades of her life to her craft, made sure that no one on stage who had two left feet make it blatantly obvious. There wasn’t a single step out of time or place and with phenomenal storytelling behind every single routine, Annette channelled dance styles such as tap, line, jig and even ballet to take the audience on a sensational roller coaster ride with choreography that was both emotional and emancipated.
As for the cast, it seemed that many of them took inspiration from characters that have had a significant impact on the childhood of many in the human race to make their acting performances ever more enchanting. They also managed to achieve this in the ensemble as well as the leads, allowing every individual portrayal to shine a light straight into the crowd. To start us off, what production of Tuck Everlasting is complete without the titular Tuck family who accidentally found the fountain of youth and achieved immortality? Ben Noble-Saroto, Elizabeth Matjacic, Matthew Davies and Julian Campobasso all made the roles of the Tuck family their own with stroylines that were both heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time with each actor bringing something special to each portrayal. Noble-Saroto originally charmed audiences this year in MDMS’ Les Misérables but in this production he succeeded in letting the entire circuit know his name as he wowed the crowd with his performance as Jesse, taking inspiration from the legendary Peter Pan to bring us a reminder that you don’t need to grow up and be mature to be somebody’s hero. Matjacic utilised her almost thirty year theatrical experience and her motherly instincts to the fullest in her portrayal of matriarch Mae who yearns for the simpler times when she could be with her family, teaching us that no matter where life may take you, you can always find your way back home. Davies’ character Miles was probably the most tragic of the Tuck family due to the loss of his wife and his devoted son Thomas when his ageless fate began to show and even though he’s not a father himself in real life, he still convinced the audience of his story and gave a devastating depiction of what it’s like to lose your loved ones and to be overprotective of what you have left. Campobasso may have spent a lot of the first act sleeping in the role of the Tuck’s patriarch Angus, but he quickly won the audience over with an inspiring portrayal of a man who’s lost his drive for fun and rediscovers his lust for life with the return of his family that quickly garnered him the title of the production’s king. He reminded the audience of everything a father ought to be and his unconditional love for his onstage family contagiously spread into the audience he performed for and by the end, we all wanted to be his children with his inspiring arc.
Also in the cast, Colin Morley’s portrayal of the Man in the Yellow Suit was highly reminiscent of an animated Disney villain willing to do whatever it takes to abuse his power over the universe in which he dwells, giving a conniving and commanding performance that was still filled with charm and charisma to cement his place as Tuck Everlasting’s villainous antagonist. Liam Charleston and Luca Moutsos also shined as Constable Joe and his son Hugo respectively with Charleston reminiscent of comical police officers like Chief Wiggum in The Simpsons and Nicky Flippers in Hoodwinked and Moutsos like classic characters such as the title characters in Oliver and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and more modern Pixar characters like Miguel in Coco and the title character in Luca. Together, they were a dynamic duo bouncing off each other so well, especially in their standout number You Can’t Trust A Man. Alannah Woods and Sonja Agree also shined as Betsy and her mother Nana Foster, their respective characters may have differed personality wise with Betsy being overprotective and Nana being a lot more carefree but they both worked well together as the protagonist’s family, creating a perfect balance for her in performances that were sweet, sacred and strong.
Perhaps the greatest achievement in the cast was the undisputed queen of the production, young Summer Bush who played the show’s protagonist and heroine Winnie Foster. At just thirteen years old, Bush is probably the youngest production queen I’ve ever had the chance to review, but in her time in our beloved community, she has already achieved so much with performance skills that are way beyond her years. With vocal skills that can even blow the toughest of critics away and acting chops that captivated the audience, body and soul, Bush gave a performance reminiscent of animated legends like Alice In Wonderland and Fern Gully and live action pop culture staples like Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz that was so fantastical, festive and fulfilling, you would think that she was a walking dream living and breathing right before your eyes. It was a performance that could garner so much acclaim that she could easily receive one of the most prestigious awards in our community and I’m sure I speak on behalf of everyone in theatre when I say that I look forward to seeing her amazing career take flight as she begins her teenage years.
If anyone didn’t know about Tuck Everlasting before Fab Nobs put it on, they certainly will after viewing this marvel of a production and they will have you googling it for audition songs and more upcoming productions of it by the time the night is over. Some may have walked into the show expecting something childish but they were swiftly proven wrong with a folk tale that could capture even the stoniest of hearts, they can even make this Disney’s next big animated classic and sell seats with a production as enchanting as this. Special shoutout to Elizabeth Matjacic and Colin Morley for your fantastic performances and to the rest of the cast and crew for putting on a show that everyone will love.
If you haven’t gotten tickets to see the show, you better get them while you still can, support the company as it’s a show that you could only ever see again in your wildest dreams.
Congratulations to Fab Nobs for such a phenomenal opening night, enjoy the rest of your run and I look forward to seeing the wonders you bring to your fabulous stage next year.
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