What struck me early in this energetic, well-rehearsed and most enjoyable production was not only the patent artistic achievement on display, but the extraordinary logistic capacity of the Director and Choreographer, Nina Richards, the Musical Director, Jane Pope, and their production team.
This cast was very large, and all were students in the Scotch College Junior School, Years 3-6. Apart from the principals and the main ensemble performers, there were five separate choruses from different Year groups: the Maui ensemble, Monsters, Shiny ensemble and two choruses of Ancestors. They were all quite focussed on their tasks and showed the effect of sound direction and choreography. I didn’t count them all, but it would be no surprise to learn that there were forty or fifty in each of the groups. Each chorus – and the whole cast, for that matter, – was effectively, consistently and attractively costumed, thanks, no doubt to the industry of Costume Designer Olga Koloskova, Costume Coordinator Jane Pope, and their huge team of thirty or so co-workers.
The principal cast were a delight, strongly led by Poppy Warren as Moana. She had lively spark and confident stage presence to match her effective characterisation and lovely singing. She had power, too, when needed. That was especially apparent in her solo How Far I’ll Go, and in her dialogue when standing up to Maui. Eli Horbelt played the loveable, bragging ‘demi-god’ Maui with strength and flair, matching Moana in many of their encounters. Noah Bowman had authority as Moana’s father, Chief Tui, and was well supported by India Bhanderi as her mother, Sina. Amelie Falzon was gracious and empathetic as Gramma Tala, while Zoe Ellis and Molly Worthington were spritely and entertaining as Hei Hei and Pua. Providing a sound narrative base to the action were Olivia Adcock, William Giovanelli and Sadie Twelftree as the three principal Ancestors. They were articulate and performed with a sense of authority.
Jacob Kurmis was slick and showy as the fearsome crab, Tamatoa, and was well supported by his Claws, Oliver Kirsten and Charlie Stratton. Their big song, Shiny, was a hit, as it is intended to be.
Those crab claws were an effective use of figuration, a technique replicated throughout the performance by other cast members. The sea, for example, was made up of blue-clad individuals, moving appropriately to set the mood of each scene on the ocean. They each waved short blue silken banners, representing individual waves. Another striking use of the technique were the two cast members as the eagle’s wings, when Maui became that character. This was a successful idea which added significantly to the overall visual impact.
Overall, the singing was tuneful and expressive and the whole performance had energy and good pace. This was a good choice for the age, capacity and interests of the young cast. It entertained in its own right, but clearly also held the promise of fine things yet to come in the school’s performing arts programme.