Muriel’s Wedding – The Musical

There was a moment toward the end of tonight’s show when a large tear swelled up, and rolled down my right cheek. It’s also the bit in the movie that always upset me: the moment when the mother died. Or rather, committed suicide.

My mum didn’t commit suicide, but in many ways she had lost the will to live. Though not by her daughters and me, my mum was similar to Betty Helsop: also called Betty, she was undervalued and often verbally and physically abused by her broader family. And when dad lost his battle with cancer in 1982, and when I went off to university in 1984, mum became increasingly unwell. Only a few days before her heart-attack, she said she wanted to leave the house where she was living with her mother and brother.

That’s just one reason why the story of Muriel’s Wedding resonates so deeply with me, and why love the film so much, as I wrote a few years ago… And then, there’s the fact Porpoise Spit isn’t UNLIKE the town in which I grew up, I can almost name the characters from the movie as actual people from my hometown, and the fact that, like Muriel, I spent so much of my youth sitting alone in my room listening to ABBA songs.

When I lived in Porpoise Spit, I used to sit in my room for hours and listen to ABBA songs. But since I’ve met you and moved to Sydney, I haven’t listened to one Abba song. That’s because my life is as good as an Abba song. It’s as good as Dancing Queen.

“Are you really ready for it?, I asked my friend who I attended tonight’s show with. We knew the “black side” of the story of Muriel. Lines like the one spoken by Muriel to Rhonda on Hibiscus Island when she says:

“Do you ever think you’re nothing. Sometimes I think I’m nothing. Useless.”

…illustrate the pain she and many others have encountered.

It’s such a contrast to the often joyous feeling of both the movie and the musical.

It’s one of my all time favourite movies. It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I went along to see the musical adaptation. But I’m really pleased to say the musical is absolutely true to the heart of the movie. There are just so many lines from the movie appearing in the musical, and I had to stop myself from reciting them out loud, as I’ll often do when I watch the movie at home.

But it’s not a simple re-telling of the movie: there are lots of modern touches (Muriel no longer works in a video shop, for example).

And then, of course, the wonderful music by Kate Miller-Heidke and her partner, with the song about arriving in Sydney being particularly memorable.

“When you get to Sydney, your life begins…”

(or words to that effect) they sing, with a chorus still stuck in my head a couple of hours later.

And then there’s ABBA. I’d heard, or assumed that like the Priscilla Musical, Bjorn and Benny had not agreed to license ABBA songs for “Muriel’s Wedding – The Musical”. In fact, quite the opposite is true, as there’s five or six ABBA songs throughout the show, and ABBA themselves appear throughout the musical as a Bjorn Again-like “Greek chorus”, The only downside? “That’s not a fucking Swedish accent, not even close”, I whispered in my friend’s ear.

The songs are terrific, the plots great, the ensemble is wonderful (except maybe Gary Sweet who could NEVER come close to role made famous by Bill Hunter), and the young woman who plays Muriel (Maggie McKenna) is exceptional, receiving a well-deserved standing ovation.

Like the movie, “Muriel’s Wedding – The Musical” was a rollercoaster of emotions from tears to laugh out loud moments. Though I couldn’t possibly afford to attend the musical as many times as I’ve watched the movie, I’d definitely go again.

“This is the ABBA musical that ‘Mamma Mia’ COULD have been”, I said to my friend, as we walked away tonight.

  1. Bill Hunter is a hard act to follow. The movie was both about laughing and crying. I too teared up at the death of Muriel’s mother. I did get rather excited about her beau. Good to hear the musical is good. I expect I will dragged along to see it, perhaps willingly.

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    1. On the subject of the beau, my friend and I both agreed Daniel Lapaine in the movie was also a hard act to follow.

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  2. The beau in this production does not have the sexy face of the young Daniel Lapaine but otherwise is an impressive sight and he is very funny as his character comes to the fore near the end.

    I think the stage version is wonderful. It exceeded all my expectations.

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