It’s A Dad Thing: The Musical [FringeTIX]
SINGular Productions @ The Opera Studio
2:00pm, Sat 12 Feb 2011
Walking up to The Opera Studio out at Netley (a great space, sullied only by its relatively remote nature), a couple of the cast members – guys in their mid-to-late twenties, maybe? – are having a kick of the footy outside the door. One of them fires off a lazy ocker greeting as I wander past; inside, more cast members are milling around the audience, and it looks like there’s some broad male stereotypes at play: the slick businessman glued to his mobile phone. The ocker guy with the boots, shorts, and Akubra. The young trendy guy.
The musical starts with five men gathering for a local playground working bee; four are fathers, and the fifth is expecting The Call from his wife at any moment. Initial signs were mixed; the opening songs / monologues (songologues?) were clumsy in construction – the almost complete lack of rhyming elements made them feel less like the former, and more like the latter… but the delivery was, clearly, superb. From the outset, it’s clear that these guys really can sing.
But the songs improve at a rapid rate of knots, and before too long I’m genuinely enjoying this; sure, it’s just a collection of amusing and somewhat predictable conversations around the joys and – more often than not – trials of being a father, but it’s all performed with heart… and tongue-in-cheek. The use of a Sherrin football as a makeshift baby, with constant callbacks to the patting-to-sleep ritual, is really well done; there’s a great song that sees the men rocking out with plastic toy instruments and dirty blonde wigs, accentuated by some leaf-blower hair-in-wind special effects. The vasectomy song, while not a surprising topic of conversation for this group, takes an unexpected twist, and the lemon tree story (with one dad’s children burying their own placentas) was bloody funny. The first act ends with a mad scramble after the Expecting man gets The Call, and the others fluster about trying to get him to the hospital.
The (shorter) second act begins with a maniacal imagining of the impending birth; the call was actually a false alarm, and so the men return to complete the work on the playground. And the mood generally becomes a little more gentle, a little sentimental… with the exception of the sex scenes, including some brilliant Bee Gees-inspired falsetto choruses (and champagne popping), and the wonderful theatricality of the First Car song. But there’s a nice, heartwarming finish, and the performance ends perfectly.
Now, I’m most certainly not a Dad, and have resigned myself to the fact that I’m unlikely to ever be one (and that’s fine), so there’s a bit of heartstring-pulling in this show that kind of misses the mark for me – though the poignancy of Lily’s birth (born with brain damage, shattering the father… until he bumps into a mate who lost his daughter at birth) is not lost. But the guys are clearly enjoying themselves onstage, and that enjoyment is infectious. The live band, in full view behind the playground set, are fantastic, and the whole production is just really well put together.
Sure, It’s A Dad Thing is just a collection of common jokes about men and fatherhood – men are the weaker sex, aren’t women awesome, kids are wonderful and heartbreaking – but it’s just so well done that I couldn’t help myself loving it to bits. Oh – and the lemonade (perhaps placenta-aided?) is ace – be sure to try some.