The latest show from performer, festival fixture, and sometime DJ Andrew McClelland was written during 2020’s lockdowns. The result, The Very Model of a Modern Major Musical, his own operetta in the style of Gilbert & Sullivan (G&S), with musical direction and accompaniment from Martine Wengrow.
McClelland’s past comedic efforts, (some with Lawrence Leung), have considered unusual topics including secret societies or pirates. There’s typically a PowerPoint accompaniment, and even the odd burst of song. Those features return. However, having found his feminine, music-nerd equivalent in Wengrow, the musical offerings reach new heights.
Putting on the show, with its cast of 90 and full orchestra, will cost a bit. So, McClelland and Wengrow pitch to us, the Australia Council for the arts, a stripped-down, two-person version, dealing with council quibbles along the way.
The plot has the flavour of what we know from G&S, sort of. As times have changed, it’s appropriate to eschew the colonialism and sexism which may complicate the enjoyment of, say, The Mikado, by a modern, woke audience. Importantly, the plot delivers a good amount of mirth.
The action is set in a legal firm, where the IT department longs for the Paralegals. A strong performance in an inter-firm, inter-gender football match may help some catch the eye of the object of their affections. Also, secrets must be kept, and identities are not what they first appear. As we would expect, marriage is not-only desirable, its practically compulsory.
McClelland likes to mince around the stage, and such a G&S-inspired work seems the perfect outlet for his style and tenor voice. Wengrow faithfully (and jauntily) captured the Victorian-era sound of some well-known Gilbert and Sullivan tunes, and her delightful upper register brought suitable girliness to the appropriate roles.
How curious that, despite new entanglements making the plot increasingly complex in true G&S style, this is an hour of easy-going, family-friendly fun. (A most ingenious paradox!)
Even if you don’t know Iolanthe or The Pirates of Penzance, there’s still plenty of amusement to be found in how our performers present so many characters, whilst trying to maintain their artistic integrity in the face of commercial realities. Orphans are not only welcome but encouraged!
The Very Model of a Modern Major Musical
Trades Hall – Solidarity Hall, Corner Lygon & Victoria Streets, Carlton
Performance: Friday 7 October 2022 – 6.00pm
Season continues to 20 October 2022
Information and Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au
Image: Martine Wengrow and Andrew McClelland features in The Very Model of a Modern Major Musical (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte