Parody is never an easy genre to get right.
There has been many a time over the years when I have sat down to watch a parody, whether it be film or theatre, and I have walked away thinking “what the hell did I just watch?”. Of course, there have been times when it goes the other way as well. I still remember vividly how much I laughed through Hot Shots, while Scary Movie and Not Another Teen Movie are still some of my favourite films of all time.
With all that history there and the fact that I am an overly obsessive fan of Stranger Things, as I write this, both a Dustin and a Demogorgon Pop Vinyl sit on the shelf above my head, it is safe to say that I was a little nervous about how my experience of watching Salty Theatre‘s production Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical would go. Well, the answer to that question is probably best summed up by saying that I have already bought tickets for some friends and I to go and see it next week.
I guess my biggest fear with Stranger Sings was that it was going to turn out to be like a pantomime with very little creativity. As it turns out, my fears couldn’t have been further from the truth because director/producer Ashley Taylor Tickell has made sure this show is creative throughout, even throwing a couple of uniquely Australian lines and moments to make it a little different from the off-Broadway production.
This is probably the point where I should make one thing very, very clear, if you are not a fan of Stranger Things than you are not only going to get lost very, very quickly, but a lot of the comedy is not going to make a lot of sense to you. Probably to the point where you will be looking at those laughing around you and wondering what on earth has gone wrong with them.
I knew that this show was targeted towards the more serious Stranger Things fan when it was revealed very early on that one of the show’s main characters is Barb Holland (Stacey-Louise Camilleri), a reoccurring character from Season One of the television show that many fans (and characters within the show) seemed to have just forgotten about once she disappeared.
Sure, Will Byers (Gabrielle Ward), Dustin Henderson (Liam J. Kirkpatrick), Lucas Sinclair (Guillaume Gentil), and Mike Wheeler (Jack Duff) are all there, but this feels like it is Barb’s show, which Stacey-Louise Camilleri takes and runs with it. She gets some of the shows best comical moments and steals the show with some musical numbers that reveal she has a voice that would put the cast of The Phantom Of The Opera to shame. Was I expecting an artist with such an amazing singing voice in this show? No way. Did I love it? You bet I did.
Making it even more obvious that Stranger Sings is a labour of love from true fans is the fact that the creators behind the scenes also picked up on many of the things that real fans have discussed over the years. Like how the behaviour of Joyce (Stephanie John) is often manic and crazy to the point where she is an annoying character, or how insensitive many of the characters in the show seem to be in the early seasons when Jim Hopper (Ian Andrew) tries to talk about his past demons. Then of course, this stage show even points out just how weird it was that everybody warmed so quickly to and accepted Eleven (Jess Ridler) despite where she came from and what she is capable of doing.
And while the characterisation, comedy, and plot of Stranger Sings works a treat, one of the things that left me so entertained throughout was how creative the set and props were (especially when the cast were mimicking the show’s famous bike riding scenes) and the use of ‘those pesky Russian scientists’ when it came to the set changes etc.
When I was going into Stranger Things: The Parody Musical, I was not expecting a show that dripped with creativity. This show made me laugh from start and finish and as a Stranger Things fan, I found that I instantly fell in love with it. As the drunk audience member near me yelled out, “THIS IS SO FUNNY!” Yes… yes, it is. Funny and ever so creative! If you’re a true Stranger Things fan then you should be buying tickets right now!
Salty Theatre‘s Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical is now playing at Melbourne’s Meat Market venue until the 19th of November.
For more information and ticketing, visit:
Photography by Angel Leggas, 3 Fates Media.