Inspired by a trip to Texas, Drew Downing has constructed a sensational one-man musical that tells the story of a lone country boy from Texas, who just wants to make music in The Big Apple.
Starring theatre veteran Frank Kerr (I Will Survive), Kerr delivers an effortless performance as Davey (Rebel), navigating through Downing's beautifully developed book and score.
The story begins in NYC with Davey presenting some songs 'in concert'. Backed by a sensational four-piece band, Kerr proves himself both a fine actor and musician alike.
The story is constructed in a way that encapsulates the staple gritty raw lyrics of country music, and blends them
seamlessly into an incredible arc that is both vulnerable and sobering, whilst also being incredibly entertaining.
Downing's work on this show truely marks him as one of the great playwrights of modern Australian theatre. The book is poignant, the score is packed with energy and stylistic flair and his ability to intertwine the two is outstanding. Under the direction of Clary Riven, Kerr's ability to tell this story in such a real and charismatic way makes this a show that transcends the invisible barriers that often seperate country music and the theatre.
Particular credit must be given to the on-stage band. Led by Musical Director Tyson Legg (who also plays bass and provides some killer backing vocals), the band is incredibly solid. Pianist Peter Nguyen and Drummer Conrad Tracey both give stunning performances. On guitar, Aaron Syrjanen is a true force to be reckoned with; showcasing a strong combination of extremely skilled musicianship and great on-stage comradery with Kerr (who also plays acoustic guitar for most of the show). The combination of the five musicians makes one wish they really were just a band playing in a bar - they'd no doubt, kill it.
If you are a lover of country music, Downing's compositions will be like honey to the ear. If you are a fan of good theatre, Kerr's performance will leave you emotionally exhausted. Simple set design and costumes by Betty Auhl provide great subtle support for this great show. The wooden slats that frame the stage are warm and welcoming and really support the tone set by the show as a whole.
If ever there was a reason to support original Australian works, this is it. For the love of all things arts-related, please buy a ticket so more works like this may make it to the surface. You never know, the next time you see Downing's work, it may be on a much larger stage, with a much larger ticket price.
Rebel is performing at the MC Showroom in Prahran until Sunday October 20.
Photos: Daniel Pearce