I am a ‘fan girl’.
When watching Yve Blake’s original Australian musical FANGIRLS, I was incredibly triggered. I know firsthand the burden of loving a celebrity, more specifically – a pop singer, and dedicating a lot of your life (and your wallet) to their projects. I know the anxiety of trying to buy concert tickets and being stuck in what seems like forever in a digital queue, I know the stress of lining up all day outside a concert venue for the opportunity to get your spot at the barrier. I even know the desire to go multiple times to a show and having your funds not align with the spontaneously announced ticket sale dates. I still have regrets to this day of the concerts that I didn’t go to. So, I really mean it when I say that I was triggered.
With book, music and lyrics by Yve Blake and direction by Paige Rattray, FANGIRLS follows Edna, a young, spirited scholarship teenager who is a massive fan of True Connection frontman, Harry. When the concert plans don’t go her way, Edna isn’t deterred, hellbent on her Harry mission, that’s more than just fanfiction.
The language used in FANGIRLS is spot on with its understanding and relevance to stan culture. Not only is the musical a loving tribute to being a passionate fan and being part of a fandom, but Blake also raises important topics and messages on body image, identity, depression, and societal sexism when it comes to hobbies and passion.
The songs in FANGIRLS are also smart, catchy as hell and could easily be chart-topping stand-alone pop songs, even with all their tongue-in-cheek puns, metaphors, and references. While every song is perfection, the stand-out numbers (if I had to choose) would be ‘Let Them’, an excellent introduction into Edna’s world, and the initial version of ‘Nobody’, which was, for me, insanely relatable. Perfectly timed, the World Premiere Cast Recording was released today and is available on Youtube, Apple Music and Spotify now.
With a cast of only 8 on stage, FANGIRLS is vibrant, sassy, clever and electric. I must mention the following; Karis Oka is phenomenal with her mutant lungs, and her strong, vulnerable performance as Edna. You really feel her pain when she is unable to buy concert tickets, and even more so, when she falls into her fandom heartache. Shubshri Kandiah is great as the shy and unconfident Brianna. Chika Ikogwe thoroughly impressed me with her portrayal of Jules, a bossy unapologetic schoolgirl, showcasing a tough exterior but is clearly going through some serious shit. Aydan Calafiore is effortless in his performance as pop-star, Harry. His vocals are sublime and his acting chops are worth every praise.
If there is one person in this production that almost steals the show, it’s Ayesha Madon in her role as Lily. She has nailed the perfect combination of both ‘serious’ and ‘hilarious’, plus the facial expressions that Madon projects on-stage is a talent that cannot be taught. Did I mention her vocal runs are insane (in a good way)? Last but not least, James Majoos is incredible as Saltypringl. When Majoos hits the stage, you cannot take your eyes off them. They command your attention, and boy, do they deserve it.
Being a fan is not a choice, you do not control who you fall in love with (and it doesn’t have to be romantically). While I understand not everyone is as lucky as I am when it comes to meeting your idols (Google search ‘Katy Perry Auckland proposal’ if you’re curious), this show isn’t a statement to deter anyone from fandom culture. Yve Blake has made her message clear that girls should not be negatively judged on what we are passionate about and what makes us happy. And if you’re going to be a fan of one thing, I implore you to give FANGIRLS a chance to make its way into your heart. It certainly stole mine. The only travesty and criticism I have of this show is that there were no programme books and all musicals should have programme books.
FANGIRLS is blatant, bold, brilliant, and I’m seriously going to have to try, beg, steal and borrow so that I can see the show again before it leaves.
FANGIRLS is currently playing at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse until May 9, 2021.
For more information on its tour and ticketing, visit:
Photography by Mark Gambino.