14 July 2017

Mini review: Paris

Paris - A Rock Odyssey (A tribute to Jon English)
Music Theatre Melbourne in association with Stella Entertainment
13 July 2017
Melbourne Recital Centre
to 15 July 2017

Paris. Jordon Mahar, Brian Mannix, Jack Oriley

With only four performances, the concert version of Paris at Melbourne Recital Centre runs until Saturday. As a tribute to the late Jon English, it's made with the kind of love that proves what an experience Paris could, and should, have been.

When the recording of Jon English and David Mackay's rock opera Paris was released in 1990, there was hope of a full-scale show. When English released the amateur rights in the 2000s, there were some small scale productions, and it remains popular with schools, but it may never be seen as it was envisioned.

Telling the story of the Trojan War (Troy and the giant horse) around the love story of Paris and Helen, it requires a huge cast and a design that can encompass a bloody war, raging oceans and a giant horse. Who doesn't want to see that!

Musically and structurally, it's also a product of the 1980s and – like many of the shows we loved at the time – its story cliches, lyric rhymes and 80's-tv-soundtrack chords struggle to sit with contemporary expectations of music theatre.

But none of that matters, especially if you remember the 1980s as well as most of the audience did.
And none of which make this concert version anything less than wonderful.

With a large chorus and a knock-em-dead cast including Mattthew Manahan (Paris), Madeleine Featherby (Helen), Kerrie Anne Greenland (Cassandra) and Mark Dickinson (Menelaus), it's easy to see the show that was in English's mind when he wrote it.

Throw in some some bonus 80s and 90s rock casting with John Waters (Ulysses), Tim Freedman (Agamemnon) and a scene stealing Brian Mannix (Sinon) and it's even easier to imagine a time when hair was big, grunge and electronica were new, and the words 'rock' and 'opera' still belonged together.

Musically, it still packs a punch (I'm surprised at how much I'm still singing today) and dramatically, it finds the emotion, dilemma and tension that take it from 'we know this one' to 'what's-going-to-happen?'.

Maybe, it shouldn't be the show that never happened? It needs some development and to be brought into now, but it could be amazing.

And if you still miss Jon English, you don't need me to tell you to go.

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