SLAMS Music Theatre Company
By Lucas Ioppolo
Found myself back in Bayswater on Friday night to attend the opening night of SLAMS MTC’s newest variety production, appropriately titled 80s Countdown, where, we were transported back in time and greeted by a series of classic pop and rock numbers from back in the day in an exciting, nostalgia filled evening. The decade that was the 1980s continues to be a fixture in pop culture almost thirty-five years since its end and to this day, it holds a place in the hearts of many individuals throughout the world, whether they lived through the decade or not. The music of this era is no exception as it’s arguably considered one of the best decades for music in not only the twentieth century but of all time and the aim of this production was to reintroduce us to these songs which are considered timeless in a way that only theatre folks can achieve. It’s hard to replicate such an iconic moment in time but with the theatrics, wild costumes and makeup and above all, talent that the company possessed, this ultimate throwback hit all the right notes in order to do justice for the musical legends who remain an inspiration and pime influence to our community.
80s Countdown was made possible by four people on the production team, director/choreographer Sarah Rietmeyer, director David Woods, musical director/performer Julia Roper and vocal specialist Andrea Coburn. Together they got the cast to channel their inner 80s diva in order to revive an entire decade in all of its camp glory, featuring direction that proudly reminisced on the rise of the music video, including unconditional and uncanny re-enactments of video spectacles from artists like Elton John, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Madonna, A-Ha and even Bonnie Tyler in one of the most frighteningly bizarre (in the greatest way possible) moments of the night. In the music department, we bore witness to wicked and well crafted orchestrations of our favourite 80s hits as they counted down from 20 to 1 the best 80s hits chart impact wise, while they were also accompanied with medleys of songs that got the party started, parodied the over the top melodrama of the American soap opera and beloved fan favourites that unfortunately didn’t make the FINAL COUNTDOWN (see what I did there). The choreography of the production omitted most 80s dance crazes but it still boldly and brilliantly captured the fun atmosphere that took control of the dance floor during the decade, especially with routines stylised in a fashion fit for the gospel choir, the ballroom, the video aerobics class and even the comfort of your own home.
In the cast of 80s Countdown, SLAMS had an elected queen who hosted the evening like a talk show or award ceremony star fit for the small screen in the ever so fabulous and flamboyant Latecha Khairy. Throughout the showcase, Khairy barely sang a note but held the audience in the palm of her hands so effortlessly and effervescently with more costume changes than Whoopi Goldberg at the Oscars, as she introduced each number and medley with her witty charm, played along with the crowd as they took turns guessing a famous 80s riff and lead the whole venue in melodic prayer like a baptist preacher does with their congregation in the full cast numbers. Being a variety show, it’s hard to individually name every performer so instead I’ll be paying my respects to the cast’s drive and dedication with certain ditties. During some of the biggest standouts in the cabaret, we saw numbers that featured most of the cast but were predominantly led by one or two individuals including a rocking and riveting rendition of Bon Jovi’s Living On A Prayer that could get you screaming the lyrics at the top of your lungs; a deep and dexterous take on Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) that highlighted the importance and power of alto voice and an eccentric yet electric performance of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart that brought the house down with it’s kooky character. The anatomically male cast didn’t really get to perform any numbers alone until the second half of the countdown but it was surely worth the wait with their smooth and soulful odes of Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Come On Eileen and Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, which made all genders in the crowd swoon as they seduced us with their love for any particular woman. The anatomically female cast predominantly shined bright like diamonds in enrapturing and empowering covers of favourites like Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven Is A Place On Earth, Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) and my personal favourite of the night Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin’s Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves. These numbers highlighted what it means to be a strong and independent woman in some of the most feminist performances that took the lead. Finally, you had numbers that pulled out all the stops with almost every cast member in commanding and crystal jams like Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, Toto’s Africa and Madonna’s Like A Prayer that were all fantastic serenades for the unity and liberty that can be found within multiple companies in Melbourne’s amateur theatre circuit.
SLAMS provided the goods with 80s Countdown in every element as it proved to be a thrilling throwback adventure for lovers of the 1980s and an intriguing introduction for those not familiar with the decade and I eagerly anticipate what the company has to offer with the next variety production they present. Special shoutout to Sarah and Jimmy Rietmeyer, Julia Roper, Sheniah Legg, Angelina Pitasi, Ash Buntsma, Brooke Remfrey-Pettit, Chloe Harbour, Claire Baldwin, Gen Underhill, Jess Mathewes, Jess Syme, Makayla Fraser and Steven Pythas for their work on the show and to the rest of the company on such an incredible opening night. There are still many shows to come for this variety, so grab your tickets while you still can, support the company and local theatre. Congratulations SLAMS, keep on grooving and rock on.
About the Author
Lucas Ioppolo is a community theatre performer with a passion to bring a positive energy and encouragement to those in theatre who have gone unnoticed or underrepresented. He hopes his reviews can help bring the spotlight back to a community that has helped him throughout the years.
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