Davine Productions’ latest offering “A New Brain” (A Musical Comedy) is, in a word, fascinating! It cannot be often that a hospital bed, an MRI machine and a dance routine with zimmer frames take centre stage but they do in this piece. Add the combined expertise of stage, musical and movement direction and you have a piece of theatre that works on a number of levels all in a crazy and wonderful sort of way. Director David Gauci. MD Peter Johns and Choreographer Shenayde Wilkinson-Sarti have at their disposal a stellar multi-talented bunch of performers and the collegiate mix works brilliantly. Together they lead us down a winding surgical pathway with its myriad ramifications for the patient, his friends and family and we emerge at the end slightly puzzled but uplifted and enlightened. I speak for an audience as a whole whose attention was glued to the stage and who were happily on board for the ride.
In all aspects of performance – acting, singing and movement – the cast is so very good. Script writer Gordon (a deft, dynamic and altogether convincing performance by Daniel Hamilton) is frustratingly beset by writer’s block. He’s in a terrible rut trying to get just the right combination of melody and lyrics for Mr Bungee (a pushy, persuasive and pernickety Adam Goodburn) and his children’s TV show. At lunch with friend and agent Rhoda (Dee Farnell) they are offered the specials menu including “Calamari” by an over the top waitress (Sophie Stokes) who presents their food options in a most lively fashion. Gordon collapses onto the table and into his food and it’s all downhill thereafter.
His boyfriend and lover (Lindsay Prodea) resplendent in exquisite nautical attire sings a lovely lilting “Sailing” as he enters the fray. The brief conversion of Gordon’s hospital bed into a sailing craft is very funny and instantly captured the amused imagination of the audience. So too does the dance of the zimmer frames in the racy number “And They’re Off” with Gordon, Nurse Nancy D (Sophie Stokes again), the doctor (a somewhat casual and disinterested Jacob Caudle), Rhoda and the hospital Padre (a mellifluous Lorenzo Ravida). Good nurse Richard (Mark DeLaine) strikes an amusing chord with his lead in “Poor Unsuccessful and Fat”. His appearance always brightens up the ward, particularly in act 2 with a raucous rendition of “Eating Myself up Alive” with Nancy D, the Doctor, Padre and Lisa. Lisa (Lisa Simonetti) the homeless lady, is a continuous thread throughout and her lovely voice combines so well with that of Roger’s in “A Really Lousy Day in the Universe”.
Not to be ignored, Gordon’s mother Mimi (Catherine Campbell), reminding me of the Jewish mother Mae in “Bye, Bye Birdie”, presents a show stopping solo “The Music Still Plays On” as her son Gordon’s life hovers precariously after brain surgery.
As I have mentioned above, the cast as a whole is simply superb. The orchestration provides technically fine musicianship which is subtly delivered throughout. Production ploys like the use of hospital screens are managed to great effect as is the generous playing space of Star Theatre 1. Costuming has a slight edge favouring fantasy in keeping with Gordon’s hallucinatory experiences whilst in a coma. Staging is simply slick. The pace of the piece is kept up to the mark and timing is spot on with no discernible pausing or hesitation. All entrances and exits are attacked in a positive assured manner. It was all most professional.
Relationships are the backbone of the piece. Mother and son, son and lover, doctor and seductive nurse (a great cameo!). Lisa the “bag” lady with everybody, and, most importantly the whole cast with each other! The final production number led by Gordon and his most pleasing accomplished vocal range “I Feel so much Spring” pretty much summed up the whole experience. It celebrates his return to to good health and to a greater productive output. It brings together a very talented group of performers who generously displayed their contributions and collaboration. For me, and for my appreciative fellow audience ‘A New Brain” was another Gauci triumph!