The most moving part of Georgy Girl –The Seekers musical is a film of the audience watching The Seekers at Melbourne’s Myer Music Bowl in 1967. There were about 200 000 people, around a tenth of the city’s population and still the most people to ever attend a concert in Australia. The film showed young men without shirts in newspaper hats next to middle-aged women in their Sunday best; all totally in love with a Melbourne-formed folk-pop quartet who had such insane success in the UK that they pushed The Rolling Stones and The Beatles off number one spot in the charts.
It’s easy to let the love of The Seekers and their unmatched sound influence the enjoyment of this new musical, which is lost somewhere between a juke box musical and bio show.
The close harmony of this group is captured perfectly by the music team – Stephen Amos, arrangements; Julian Spink, sound design; the orchestra; and Pippa Grandison (Judith), Phillip Lowe (Keith), Mike McLeish (Bruce) and Glaston Toft (Athol) as the quartet – and their concert numbers feel so close to seeing The Seekers in the 1960s that I’d love to see them perform at the Music Bowl.
But great moments don’t make a great musical and this new work suffers from an underdeveloped book and a confusing tone.
The mixed feelings start with a practical set, that looks like it was made of rejected grey office dividers, clashing with costumes that turn up on the paisley and colour of the grooviest of the late 1960s. They seem part satire and part celebration without settling on either. This is also reflected in the choreography and the direction, which never satirises the group but appears to laugh at the society that made and loved them.
The book (by Judith’s brother in law) starts with an absolute love of this group and this love may be its downfall. It links facts through a narrator (whose presence makes sense after the interval) or projections, and throws in obvious jokes without ever finding a story or even questioning the image they presented on their album covers.
Facts about record sales aren’t story and this show doesn’t let us see the people behind the success, understand the impact of this success or what it is was about this group that made them so loved. Let alone reflecting on what is it about Australian society today that makes us want to hear and celebrate The Seekers again?
The limited focus is on Judith and her ongoing “what will I wear?” and “I’m too fat” jokes almost dismiss her skill and talent. There’s so little about the men that they are the one who slept around, the one who rang his mum, and the one who wanted to play Albert Hall.
It almost begs to be compared to the remarkable Melbourne-made Flowerchildren: The Mamas and Papas Story. The recreation of the music was glorious but the show left it’s audience unable to hear that music again without thinking about the people who made it.
Georgy Girl – The Seekers musical left me wanting so much more than the title-song earworm.