York Theatre, February 3
Disclaimer one: I didn’t see Fangirls at Belvoir in 2019. More fool me. Disclaimer two: I was never a 14-year-old girl, and after seeing this, perhaps I missed out there, too. Then again, the fangirl phenomenon is pretty universal: from the crackpots at the last-gasp Trump rallies, to countless others shrieking and roaring at concerts, red-carpets and football matches.
This first musical from Yve Blake (book, music and lyrics) casts a dazzling light on the peculiar angst of puberty, when everyone who doesn’t think and feel exactly as you do is an alien. Parents are extreme, green, boggle-eyed aliens who have never known love or been lacerated by what mirrors and social media define as self-image: the toxic desire to be “hot”. The mix of intense emotions and powerlessness ferments the angst.
Edna (Karis Oka) and her friends Jules (Chika Ikogwe) and Brianna (Shubshri Kandiah) are head-over-heels in love with Harry (Aydan), who fronts the admirably-named boy band True Connection. Edna’s problem is how to convey to Harry that her love is infinitely more real that of a zillion other adoring fans. The magic of the show and Paige Rattray’s production lies in celebrating rather than frowning upon the fizzing wonder of being hormonally out of control. Oka keeps us caring for Edna, regardless of how outrageously far she takes her Harry obsession. Aydan makes that obsession credible, and inflects his singing with such florid melismata as to be among a funny’s show’s funniest moments – which is another of Blake’s triumphs: satirising her characters without losing our sympathy for them.
Ikogwe and Kandlah give winning performances as her on-again off-again friends, and Sharon Millerchip excels as Edna’s nightshift-nurse single mum. James Majoos maximises Edna’s Facebook friend Saltypringl and shines as a dancer, while Ayesha Madon deploys a potent voice as Lily.
The numerous people (including from Queensland Theatre and ATYP) involved in the show’s development, design, choreography and music all deserve plaudits. The flaws are a sameness to certain songs and the fact that some lyrics make extant the girl-power subtext, when the overt didacticism weakens rather than strengthens the point. But any fan(girl) of musical theatre should see it, and it probably suits the York’s bigger stage more than it did Belvoir’s.
Until February 20.