Fangirls is the wholesome and thrilling Australian musical we didn’t know we needed.
Inspired to subvert the usually negative and sexist criticisms of fangirls, this gorgeous book musical turns the genre on its head with a pulsing electronic score, Tik Tok choreography and bold visuals.
The fascination into passionate teen fans was musicalised way back in 1960’s Bye Bye Birdie, inspired by Elvis Presley fandom. Aside from many a sequence that could be described as ‘Telephone Hour’ on crack, Fangirls paves its own path, and is a gamechanger for Australian theatre.
Fangirls not-so-discreetly idolises Harry Styles of One Direction, opening big and loud. The plot is initially a touch hard to find beneath the parody and melodramatic humour, but melts away quickly to reveal authentic and diverse Australian teen voices.
Recently the world has seen some exciting and diverse portrayals of young people on stage – think Dear Evan Hansen and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. With a witty book, music and lyrics by Yve Blake (who starred in its debut season), Fangirls continues in this direction of telling truthful teen stories, peppered with black comedy.
Protagonist Edna (played on this occasion by super swing Shannen Alyce Quan) is juggling the pressures of a scholarship, her passion for writing Harry (AYDAN) fanfic and appeasing her “annoying” single mother (Danielle Barnes). Her inability to secure tickets for True Connections’ concert precipitates the unravelling of her relationships and moral fibre.
A tiny ensemble cast portray the people in Edna’s real, imagined and online worlds through lively characterisation and countless costume changes.
Chika Ikogwe (Jules), Shubshri Kandiah (Brianna) and Ayesha Madon (Lily) are mesmerising – they could be straight from Summer Bay, but with a hell of a lot more substance, charisma and riffing! Danielle Barnes’ Caroline is tragic yet strong.
AYDAN is more in his comfort zone vocally than in scene work, but succeeds in making the dominantly teenage audience go wild. Tomáš Kantor delivers many a memorable character, and James Majoos delivers smooth tones and masterful nuance as Saltypringl. Shannen Alyce Quan makes a star turn as Edna, portraying her affable flaws with aplomb through killer moves and vocals.
Who would have thought that a show with a blasting beat, flower crowns and Red Bull would typify one of Shakespeare’s greatest lines: “To thine own self, be true”. Don’t miss it – I know I’m going again.
Fangirls is showing at Arts Centre Melbourne until May 9. Tickets: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2021/musical/fangirls
Photo credit: Mark Gambino