You don’t have to be a fan of the Netflix show Stranger Things to enjoy Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical but it helps.
Reaction from the audience on opening night of the show, playing at Melbourne’s Meat Market, suggested those who laughed the loudest at certain scenes or characters had watched the franchise.
At the same time for ‘newbies’ to the show including my companion and me, the production still offered plenty of laughs and an enjoyable 90 minute theatrical experience.
Much of the credit for this goes to the very talented cast of nine performers who sang and danced with great enthusiasm and skill supported by a live band and clever choreography. Many of the cast played more than one role.
As I have since discovered, Stranger Things is set in the fictional town of Hawkins Indiana in 1983 where secret experiments in a shady laboratory have cracked open a portal to an alternate dimension called The Upside Down.
According to those in the know, the musical’s plot is loosely based on season one of the series, in which a gang of three friends – Mike (Jack Duff), Dustin (Liam J.Kirkpatrick) and Lucas (Guillaume Gentil) go in search of their buddy Will (Gabrielle Ward) after he’s taken to The Upside Down.
Will’s mother Joyce (Stephanie John) communicates with her son via fairy lights and eventually persuades the local sheriff Jim Hopper (Ian Andrew) to look for him.
Also thought to be trapped in this netherworld is Barb (Stacey-Louise Camilleri), whose best friend Nancy (Jess Ridler) isn’t much of a friend and is more interested in boys – particularly Steve (Asher Griffith-Jones) and Will’s brother Jonathan (also played by Griffith-Jones).
Other key characters are Eleven (also played by Ridler), who has escaped from the laboratory and has supernatural powers. Then there’s Demogorgon (also Gentil), a beast that terrorises the community of Hawkins.
Again without knowing anything of the series it’s hard to assess how much of the musical is a parody of the characters and how much is about mocking the 1980s. We found plenty to laugh at suggesting there’s a good mix.
There are certainly plenty of references to life in the 80s, with Jim Henson, Dirty Dancing, Thriller and E.T. amongst the characters and shows highlighted. Timeless issues such as the angst of young love and parenting skills are also explored.
Winona Ryder who plays Joyce in the Netflix series is the subject of one of the production’s very funny songs which generally have an 80s feel good vibe. Another highlight is a brilliant showstopping performance of Justice For Barb by Stacey-Louise Camilleri.
It’s easy to see why Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical has won a number of Off-Broadway musical awards. It’s also easy to understand why Salty Theatre Company’s director and producer Ashley Taylor Tickell fell in love with the production after seeing it in the States and decided to stage the show in Australia.
Even if you know nothing about the characters, it’s an irreverent, joyful and fun show. And for those who do know the characters it would seem an even more special experience.
Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical is playing at Meat Market – Flat Floor Pavillion until November 19. Visit the Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical website for more information and tickets.
*Photo credit: Angel Leggas – 3 fates media.
Jenny Burns attended opening night of as a guest of the producers.
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