A healthy dose of 90s nostalgia hits home for millennials in this fresh iteration of Science Revue, this year entitled CSI:RO Rogue Operation.
The York Theatre transformed into a ‘generic 90s beach’—palm tree cut-outs, sunset lighting, the band donning Hawaiian t-shirts and pumping funk music. But unlike its languid setting, the stage sizzled with energy and rigour.
Millennials will appreciate the spoofs of TEDx, Duolingo and Queer Eye, as well as old-school artefacts Jeopardy and Healthy Harold (puppeteered by Owen Vandenberg). Churning out creative scenarios like a jukebox, directors Hal Fowkes and Ella Kerr packed in parodies, impersonations and alliterative aerobics over three hours. The script was at times clever, other times cheesy, and occasionally pure genius.
Stand-out sketches included the ‘Mario Karts’ enactment, where Rafi Owen channels his boyish charm as Luigi, racing around King Boo (curtain drapes), dodging banana peels (real), and sticking up his middle finger—before swapping his Wii console back to a trumpet.
The Wiggles in their trademark turtlenecks also stirred the crowd, who in perfect unison cried “Wake up Jeff!”. A gloriously macabre Jeff sacrifice followed by an impressive rap of ‘Nap God’ displayed confident stage presence and synchronised choreography.
Judging from the roars, the knee-slapping favourite was the “Bop it” toy sketch. Every self-respecting player will recognise the jaunty voice commanding ‘twist it, push it, bop it’ against pulsating game music. But Will Stewart takes it to the next level with his decidedly more adult commands. The way things escalated in this refreshingly original sketch was comedic brilliance.
Throughout the evening, you cannot stop bopping to the groovy band interludes. Scintillating trumpeters and the smooth sax jammed out renditions of oldies Superstitious, Take Me Home, Country Roads, Toxic and the Rocky Theme song, even featuring a Lisa Simpson solo. The zealous troupe kept spirits up and revitalised the audience between sketches, while the nifty stage crew cleared spaghetti, staples and whatnot.The music not only provided moments of levity, however, but also some more poignant moments as well. Both the doleful Unchained Melody from Ghost, arranged into a dexterous co-playing of the sax punctuated by comical squeaks, and a bittersweet RSPCA-themed “Somebody to Love” performance, where you saw a musical troupe in animal onesies (shout out to the fantail goldfish), playfully tugged at heartstrings.
It’s clear the cast was a strong bunch.
Actors rarely faltered. Emilia McGrath dazzled us with her Moaning Myrtle and baby impression, while the endearing Matt Friedman embodied a battered ‘Isaac G the 5th grader/Saddam Hussein’.
The warm vocals of Josh O’Riordan stood out from the choir. Although the singers belted passionately, the harmony was sometimes chaotic and off- pitch, but their unified conviction sang louder. The premises of some musical numbers were entertaining, but the lyrics would have become lost in a mumble if not for the screen display.
Dancers kept things sharp with contemporary and edgier items (Drop the Base had men and women twerk in heels), while the costumes across all acts were iconic and detailed, right down to Ron Weasley’s maroon knit.
Hats off to the masterful video editors. Aside from the convincing acting, the meticulous Netflix graphics in ‘Straight Eye’ created an uncanny parody of Queer Eye. The only shame was the lag in the AV system which not only damaged the delivery of a would-be hysterical package, but I suspect was the culprit behind the out-of-place fireworks flickering behind some earlier sketches.
There were also moments where CSI:RO was marred by some more obscure performances, which either lacked context, were hard to hear or too wordy. Despite the nuanced mannerisms and recognisable surfer and bogan accents from Maxim Adams and Riley Dolahenty, they lost their audience amongst wordy dialogue. Other sketches were teased out too long, by which time the punchline became stale. The attempt at the satire of the justice system lacked bite, and the joke of the ‘18-inch penis’ received only meek chuckling, proving dirty jokes can only stretch so far. Some other sketches were also just a bit off – an ‘audience interaction’ skit revolving around a cowboy stand-off ended up featuring a rather wooden interaction and a very predictable conclusion.
Overall, the great mix of elements made CSI: RO Rogue Operation a successful one. Like most revues, there were certain outlandish moments, but in the end, the talented cast, invigorating band and laugh-out-loud acts triumphed.