The title of the show co-created by Cassie George (writer and performer) and Michael Mandalios (co-creator) references the 1998 film which launched the career of Cameron Diaz. Something about Mary is a film about men vying for Mary’s (Diaz’s) attention. There’s Something About Mary(s) looks at the theme from a different angle: reflecting on hunting for the man of your dreams, and the relationship with friends George describes as a “gaggle of gays” (‘Marys’).[1]  We follow George's journey from a demure Church-going start, to the wider horizons of University life and dating.  Embarking on a Bachelor of Musical Theatre, George quickly discovers that she has much in common with her fellow students: they love performing, and are all looking for the “men of their dreams.” But, as the publicity states, “Every day, she met the men of her dreams. Unfortunately, so did they!”

During the 60-minute show, George runs through some of the many highlights—and low points—of trying to find the right guy, each introduced as differently numbered ‘acts’ (look forward to “Act 21, Taylor the Latte Boy,” and “Act 28, Priscilla”). The show is peppered with almost as many songs as there are tales of dates, and a wide variety of musical genres: from 70s/80s/90s power ballads through to rap. Outing herself as a “fag hag” (or, more specifically, acknowledging she “sashayed [her] way the top of the ladder” as “top fag hag”), George recognises the challenge of balancing her love-life with love of her friends. She concludes that having a wide circle of gay male friends has a number of advantages: shared interests (men and music), and a ready pool of supporters for sleepovers and gossip. 

The Show has the almost obligatory audience participation number (beautifully handled—to the delight of the friends of the chosen spectator), and many entertaining asides (particularly as “Mum” was in the audience that night). Some great one-liners, delivered with excellent comic timing—many of which were close observations, causing the audience to laugh with a knowing nod (for example, “when you date the hag, you date the gays”).

Musical Director, Luke Volker was excellent, and is clearly making a name for himself as a foil for one-woman cabaret performers (I first saw Volker when performing with Bethan Ellsmore in the superb Bethan Ellsmore is… Queen of the Night). Volker is a talented musician, with the bonus of contributing excellent comic timing when delivering  wry asides or observations. But it would have been good to see a third performer. Perhaps a future development of the show might bring the co-creator, Mandalios, on stage (after all, George described him as the “Will’ to her ‘Grace’)—and perhaps also partner the production with another one-hour cabaret to produce an entertaining double-bill.

George demonstrates a mastery of the musicals genre, and of the 70s-90s powerhouse ballads, in this confident performance. Many of the choices sat well for her voice, with “Don’t have to be rich/Kiss” as one of several highlights. Personally, I would like to have heard a little more of the reflective or quieter tunes—or even a different take on some of the songs which were belted out. For example, I would love to have heard George’s version of “Do you believe in life after love” as a more reflective performance; perhaps a chance to illustrate how she still seeks to address the challenge of balancing a love life with keeping her friends.

Studio 188 is a great venue, and it will be interesting to see how the show transfers to the Turbine Studio at the Powerhouse. Go along and see it for yourself. As the show is part of the Wonderland Festival, this is the perfect chance to create your own two- or three-act show, combining There is Something About Mary(s) with one or more of the other 60-minute events included in the festival program.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended There’s Something About Mary(s) at the Studio 188, Ipswich, on Saturday, 18th November 2017, 7:00pm. The Show is part of the Wonderland Festival at the Brisbane Powerhouse, 23rd-27th November 2017 (7:30pm [6:30pm on Sunday only]). Tickets $27-$32.95 (adult, $27 plus transaction fee of $5.95). 60 minutes.

 

Note[1]: Having heard of a ‘Friend of Dorothy’—after all, what’s not to love about the Wizard of Oz—I must confess I hadn’t come across the slang use for ‘Mary.’ But as Wikipedia lists over 80 different slang terms for gay men, I’m not surprised I’d missed many of them.  

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