The Seekers hold a place in Australian music history and have contributed significant amounts to music culture. Yet, when I first walked into the full State Theatre, Sydney for the opening night of Georgy Girl: The Seekers Musical, I knew little to nothing of the group or their legacy. Early my mother inferred that I would dislike the music as I had a long history of not tolerating folk music. So for an unsuspecting and uninformed viewer, watching the show was an introduction and teaching of the groups achievements through time.
Said to be focusing on the story of how The Seekers rose to fame and how their music evolved as they did, the show is surprisingly obsessed with the story of lead female voice Judith Durham and her stereotypically female tendencies towards men, fashion and fame in the 1960s. As a result, there’s little to learn about the other three men of the group and there are many questions to ask when the characterisation of Durham is mediocre at best.
Much of this is reflected in the book of the show, which is saddled with cliché lines, lousy character development and is scarily patronising towards the band members it is trying to qualify. But alas, audience members were not present to watch a dramatisation of The Seekers, but to hear the classic songs echo through the huge theatre. All songs are delivered with soul and at no point do the songs feel underwhelming or like the performers are unable to do well. Cheesy dance routines take place in the background at times, with somewhat lackluster stage presence on the part of set design and decoration. But when the four come together, they soar.
Director Gary Young pushes the audience to like the show, focusing on the big numbers and recognisable songs over the scripted parts of the show. On the stage of the State Theatre one can’t help see how small the magnitude of the show is, easily comparable to an amateur production at a local high school. If only the show was a tribute concert performed in a smaller, more intimate venue.
Each of The Seekers bring their best to the role and perfect their harmonies. With Glaston Toft as Athol Guy, Mike McLeish as Bruce Woodley and Phillip Lowe as Keith Potger, the men are all pleasant and hold the stage despite little character nuances or interest from the audience. Fortunately Pippa Grandison becomes the phenomenal Judith Durham and gives a star performance in an otherwise forgettable show. She captures the essence of Durham’s singing style and brings gravitas to the production. Her more emotional ballads are phenomenal and I would return to the show just to see her sing once more.
Moreover, the show’s poorly written book and uninspired storyline is merely a vehicle to the stupendous singing performances that we are privy to. Kudos to the actors and actress playing The Seekers and if you are a fan of the band or have never heard them before, go see it simply for the music, which I guarantee you will leave humming.
Georgy Girl, The Seekers Musical is on in Sydney until 1st June 2016 and then heads to Perth in July 2016.