The 2015 Sydney University Revue was a very funny show. As it ought to have been: director Dave Harmon and his team had the benefit of both hindsight and time in putting together this compilation of sketches from last year’s revue season. The vast majority of the selections were strong, and the cast showed a polish rarely seen in the revue season proper, if not always the distinctive feel for the sketch of the original performers. Tweaks to lyric and punchlines were uniformly improvements, giving diverse comedic ideas more consistent and satisfying structures.
The cast was impressive – there were no scenes weighted down by one weak link. Kendra Murphy was the most prominent, demanding attention from the first moment with her enthusiasm and timing. The casting happily allowed a great number of women to showcase their comedic talents, when they are often relegated to supporting or straight characters. Julia Robertson, Sophia Roberts and Maddie Malouf were standouts in a variety of roles and styles. Patrick Morrow got a lot of stage time and deservedly so. Alex Richmond was consistently good, and Davis Murphy also impressive, though he suffered from appearing in a couple of the weaker sketches.
After a middling, offensive or boring revue, the standard audience response is always, “Well, um…the band was great”. That wasn’t necessary here, but the band was in fact superb. Musical Director Oli Cameron lead an impressive ensemble in accompanying the show’s musical numbers, and delivered great renditions of mostly-eighties pop hits in between sketches. This latter element was however overused – a huge proportion of scene changes were covered by band interludes, slowing and extending the show. Pace generally could have been improved, including the delivery of some scenes and by some more script trimming.
The musical numbers were well-performed, though the (often very good) lyrics were muddied on opening night by sound issues, especially when sung by more than one person. The choreography was solid – tightest and most impressive in the first act’s opener and closer, which managed to make some use of the raised elements of the set. Unfortunately the size of the theatre relative to the dance corps meant the dazzling mass numbers often seen in revues were lacking, and the stage sometimes felt bare.
While the majority of sketches were restagings, there was some original content. The personified Cosmopolitan magazine was newly built from the basis of an old sketch, and worked very successfully. The show’s opening and closing numbers were also new. The opener, an Australian Eurovision entry, was fun and energetic, but the closer “Thank You for Seeing Our Revue” was less successful. It was impressively sung by Victoria Zerbst and the singers of the preceding numbers, and featured some decent jokes, but the tone was slightly jarring. Failing to be properly self-deprecating or triumphant, it ended up merely quite nice. Given the talent and vibrancy found in the two hours preceding it, it was not the bang this show clearly deserved to finish with.
Images courtesy of Victoria Baldwin