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Alice Tovey: Existential Crisis review (Melbourne Comedy Festival)

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It’s my own fault really. I’ve been vocal about my dislike of musicals and try and avoid going to them so I don’t get into the sort of dilemma where my enthusiasm for some elements of a show are undercut by the musical style.

But let’s start with the positives. Alice Tovey’s backing band The Apostles are slick and terrific and look like they are having a bundle of fun. The arrangements are smooth and well done. There are lots of intricate stops and starts punching through the words and it’s all executed, if not flawlessly, then at the least with gusto and precision.

Tovey can sing, in that musical style. Her voice is powerful and clear and she has range to spare. She lets loose towards the end of the set and it raises the energy level of the songs beautifully. She is dressed in a one-piece sparkly emerald green jump suit with “TOVEY” on the back and its wild red fringes dangle and flail.

The songs, written by Tovey and keyboards player Ned Dixon, are filled with jokes whether it’s the Zombie Apocalypse Plan for marriage, We’re all Gonna Die or the MacArthur Park-esque Al Gore finale.

Sly, subtle jokes are buried in the lyrics; a stab at Dylan Moran and his part in the zombie comedy Sean of the Dead, and stuff about Peter Dutton, quarter life crises and climate change.

The show is billed as a “rock opera” and it does run pretty tightly, despite being really neither rock nor opera. It’s a musical in its form and its song style and with a love story inconveniently interrupted by the zombie apocalypse and global warming. So there are lots of good points to this show, even for me, a musical hater….

But I was unable to rise above my prejudices for reasons less subjective than my tastes. The songs are too wordy, forcing the listener – or me at least – to concentrate hard to get the rapid-fire jokes. The sound mix was average. We were spoilt by having a set of fairly hard rockin’ dudes over the PA on entry, such as Van Halen’s Panama. The flyer promises “full balls-to-the-wall rock” leading one to believe this would be the style of the show. It wasn’t, so the band sounded limp by comparison.

But Tovey had no shortage of fans in the audience with lots of whoops after each song. If you are aged 25-35 and like musicals you’ll probably love it.

Existential Crisis (A Rock Opera) is at the Tower, Malthouse Theatre until April 8

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