This multi-award winning musical will warm your heart, set your feet tapping, and show you a marvel of dresses. It’s the story about women, fashion, love-gone-wrong, and being Australian. It’s Ladies In Black.
Adapted from a 1993 novel by expatriate novelist Madeleine St. John, with music by Tim Finn, directed by Simon Phillips, this show does not disappoint. Ladies in Black is in the grand style of old musicals. This is a five-star Australian hit.
Presented by the Queensland Theatre Company, the audience will relish the nostalgic humour and poignant values of this Cinderella coming-of- age tale of bookish, suburban Lesley/Lisa. Over one summer, she evolves from duckling to swan under the guidance of the black-clad retail saleswomen she works under in late 1950s ‘Goodes Department Store’ (a disguised representation of Sydney’s David Jones).
Lisa awaits her ‘leaving certificate’ score and has intentions to attend university. However, in an era where women were only killing time pre-marriage, this is not something her father will countenance.
That’s not all the show is. With costumes by the famed Gabriela Tylesova, you will fall in love with the creations which stand on stage as characters in themselves. Every colour and sheen of the rainbow is woven into fabric shaped for the female form.
The set replicates a department store with its tall colonnades, mirrored surfaces, show of service, selling dreams with each dress — alongside the rituals and niceties of women’s hierarchies in a retail workspace. Backstories of failing marriages, the hunt for Mr. Right, and generational change also edge into Lisa’s tale.
Natalie Gansu as ‘Magda’ and Ellen Simpson as ‘Fay’ are standouts, but there are no weak cast here. Showcasing fabulous Australian talent, each whips their stage moments up into something you won’t want to miss a minute of!
The songs are light and memorable with a blockbuster in its title tune. Finn’s compositions shine.
There is so much to see on the huge stage, with a small live orchestra at its rear, giving space for the playful theatricality Phillips does so well. I loved the Mad Men-esque New Year’s Eve party silhouetted scene. Watch for the beautiful ‘digger in slouch hat’ interlude.
Meet the ladies and have your heart touched. These women are made of strong stuff. When you step inside their store, you are in for salesmanship of a different kind!
Sarah W. is a dance-trained theatre lover with a flair for the bold, and non-traditional performance platforms. On the street or in the box seat, she is always looking for quality works that push the envelope.
‘Ladies In Black’ runs 25 February-18 March 2017 at at the Regent Theatre, 8 pm Wed-Sat, 7pm Tues 14, Matinees: 2pm Sat, 1 pm Sun (130 minutes, one interval). Buy tickets now.
The venue is wheelchair accessible.