Downstairs Theatre, Belvoir St Theatre
July 28, 2018

Yarramadoon The Musical begins at a bus stop. It’s 2004 and 16-year old Shelly (Eliza Reilly) has been caught having sex with Davo on the family’s trampoline – “a tramp on a trampoline” as her mother puts it. Her mum has sent her packing and so she’s off to Sydney with a haphazardly filled-out application to join Gloria Jeans – only there isn’t a bus for another hour.

Before long, an elderly man called Leonard (Hannah Reilly) appears and tries to encourage her to stay, telling her stories about the history of Yarramadoon, a (fictional) small Aussie town just off the M5 where racism, sexism and parochialism are par for the course.

Hannah Reilly as Leonard and Eliza Reilly as Shelly. Photograph © Indiana Kwong

Produced by Aya Productions, in association with Belvoir’s indie 25A program, Yarramadoon The Musical stars sisters Eliza and Hannah Reilly, who co-created the ABC comedy doco series Growing Up Gracefully. Here, they are writers, actors and co-directors of the show, as well as co-composers of the songs with Matthew Predny, who accompanies them on keyboards and puts in a couple of cameos, notably as a magical ibis.

The Reillys grew up in a country town themselves and, as they explain in their program note, being the only kids around for acres they had to make their own fun and put on plenty of shows for their family. Yarramadoon The Musical draws very loosely on their own experience, celebrating and satirising “whitebread Australiana, city versus country mentality, people who dare to dream big”, as they put it.

During the show, we hear about Leonard’s long-lost love story. We visit Camp Naughty Boys, peopled mainly by Kyle Sandilands’ illegitimate children, where Davo (Hannah) holds sway, and camp leader (Eliza) tries to keep control. There’s a cleverly staged sequence where Shelly’s mother (Hannah) auditions for Australian Idol to onscreen comments from Ian “Dicko” Dickson (when he still had long hair), Marcia Hines and Mark Holden. We also get the ins-and-outs of Shelly’s first very public pash with Davo, and end up at the high school Prom where Davo sweeps Shelly to one side when they are crowned King and Queen.

Matthew Predny as the magical ibis and Eliza Reilly as Shelly. Photograph © Indiana Kwong

The show – which is essentially a comedy with songs – goes for broke with its over-the-top, satirical characterisations, but there’s a definite ring of truth to the people they create. The original songs aren’t particularly memorable though they serve the comedy, and while the sisters are both highly skilled comedians, with a strong on-stage rapport, their singing is less assured. The musical highlight is when Predny (a musical theatre performer) bursts into song as the glittering, drug-induced ibis. It may work dramatically that he quickly gets shut down but vocally it’s a shame as it’s such a fabulous moment.

Yarramadoon The Musical is a rough-and-ready, lo-fi, potty-mouthed production but it has plenty of very funny moments and a strong feminist focus behind the pointed but affectionate humour. There’s also some audience participation, so be prepared to get involved. The audience I saw it with certainly went for the ride and seemed to love the show to bits.

Yarramadoon The Musical plays at Belvoir St Theatre, Downstairs until August 12

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