It’s back to Shaggy Gully in the company of Monkey Baa Theatre Company and director Jonathan Biggins, not with Pete the Sheep this time, but with a terpsichorean kangaroo.
Based on the book by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley, this adaptation (by Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Elridge and Tim McGarry) brings the story of a stage-struck macropod to life with enormous charm and sly wit. Its appeal extends far beyond the target of four to 12-year-olds.
Josephine (played by Rebecca Hetherington) feels different to the other roos in her mob. Rightly so. She has an uncanny knack for dance and nothing – not even her brother Joey’s warnings about what happens to kangaroos who get too close to humans (Aunty got turned into car seat covers) – will stop her.
Professional tuition is hard to come by but smart cookie Josephine takes dance lessons where she finds them: from a pair of courting brolgas (Hayden Rodgers and Chloe Dallimore); from a couple of dizzy lyrebirds (Dallimore and Amanda Laing), and by spying on a touring ballet company as it prepares to stage Swan Lake in Shaggy Gully’s Memorial Hall.
All it takes is a twisted ankle and and our plucky marsupial has a moment to shine.
But seriously, can a kangaroo really cut it as Odette?
The answer is never really in doubt but kids will be entranced by the lively performances and warmth of the characters anyway and accompanying adults will enjoy the drollery of a story that’s as much about the pleasures and pains of showbusiness as it is about following your dream.
Phil Scott’s music and lyrics twinkle with mischief.
Choreographer Tim Harbour ranges from bouncing roos in paddocks, to old school showgirl pizzazz and the courtly beauty of ballet.
James Browne’s design catches the nostalgic note in the script, transporting the audience into a world of painted flats and canvas. His bird costumes are superb.
Biggins has cast the play with triple threats and they all shine. Hetherington exudes marsupial-next-door charm. Rodgers is terrific as the ballet company prince and a costume designer faced with the challenge of creating a tutu for a dancer with a tail.
Dallimore and Laing are exquisitely funny as the Tivoli showgirl lyrebirds constantly echoing the last thing said.
If you’ve got young ones to entertain this school holiday, Josephine Wants to Dance ticks all the boxes. And if you just feel like a quick theatrical pick-me-up (most of our theatres being in super-serious mode right now) this is very much recommended.