Plush Duck productions have brought to the New Theatre a strongly staged version of this ‘new’ musical .It is the NSW and Sydney premiere as it was first performed in Bendigo in 2015.
Directed by Miranda Middleton, NED is a Broadway style biographical musical of one of Australia’s great icons of history. It is set in country Victoria in the late 1880’s and follows Ned Kelly’s development, as he is forced by circumstances, from a boy from a poor family with Irish roots struggling to make ends meet into a cold blooded criminal culminating in his execution by hanging.
When his mother Ellen is wrongly charged with attempting to murder a policeman, Ned, his brother Dan, and their two friends Joe and Steve flee to the bush to avoid their own arrest. They are soon demonised as the feared ‘Kelly Gang’, eventually taking a final, fatal stand against the police at the infamous standoff /shootout at Glenrowan.
The legend of Kelly has been around and inspired artists for over a hundred years : from the 1906 movie The Story of the Kelly Gang ( Australia’s first feature film! ) , and various other books ,films ,( eg the one with Mick Jagger) musicals ( 1977 -78 with lyrics by Reg Livermore ) and not forgetting Sidney Nolan’s iconic series of paintings that have engraved him into our consciousness.
The staging is generally most impressive – a rather sparse set with lots of moveable tables /chairs etc and rows of poles that also act as prison bars, for instance. Peter Rubie’s lighting is snappy, atmospheric and polished. Conductor Hamish Stening very energetically led the excellent 15 piece orchestra placed at the back of the stage.
Some of the staging is quite reminiscent of say Les Mis , with hints of Oliver! and Oklahoma. Middlelton’s choreography is serviceable if perhaps a trifle repetitive. I do agree with some of the comments made by others of my colleagues, for instance that when gang member Steve Hart ( Martin Everett) is supposedly ‘in disguise ‘ as a woman, he still wears his trousers underneath and they are visible.
Middelton has a terrific cast eighteen strong led by Joshua McElroy as Ned (with a very full bushy fake beard) has great charisma and a very strong voice. He can be quite threatening at times , at other times loving ( with his friends and family) or proud and defiant when confronted by the police . His Iron and I monologue number at the end was reflective and stirring.
The rest of the ‘Kelly gang ‘ were impressively played by Rowan Blunt as Dan Kelly, Guy Webster as an Enroljas like Joe Byrne, Martin Everett as Steve Hart and Lincoln Elliott as Aaron Sheritt.
Marcus Riviera as Superintendent Hare was coldly determined to catch the Kelly gang and David Hov gave a fine performance as the seemingly good looking, apparently charming but slimily sinister Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick, the show’s main villain.
The female characters were given strong focus and delightful performances, reminding us of the female experience in what is usually regarded as a male dominated era of Australia’s history.
Jodie Harris as Ellen, Ned’s mother, was excellent – her rousing , spirited My Son brought the house down.
Ned’s two sisters , Kate and Maggie, were wonderfully played by Cypriana Singh and Siobhan Clifford. Clifford leads the ensemble in a big tavern number Drink Now in some ways similar to Om Pah Pah from Oliver! Courtney Powell as Ann Jones was terrific as well.
There is a haunting performance of a very moving ballad Come Home as well.
The show opens with a rousing ensemble version of Such Is Life with a sculpture of Ned’s famous armour centre stage and ends cyclically with his execution.
We see Ned through the current eyes that history now mostly approves : a Ned Kelly who was not intrinsically bad, and would not stand neutrally by while his family was harassed by a corrupt police force. As one crime led to another, Kelly regarded himself at war with the police, a Robin Hood like outlaw with a heart of gold. Or was he?!
Running time allow 2 & ½ hours (roughly) including interval
NED KELLY : A NEW AUSTRALIAN MUSICAL is playing the New Theatre until 22 December 2018/
CREATIVE & PRODUCTION TEAM
Director/Choreographer Miranda Middleton
Vocal Director/Assistant Director Sarah Levins
Conductor Hamish Stening
Repetiteur Oliver Beard
Set Designer Matt Hourigan
Lighting Designer Peter Rubie
Sound Designer Harrison Collins
Graphic Designer Shakira Wilson
Costume Designer Adrienne Dell
Stage Manager Rachel Guest
Assistant Stage Manager Jesse Aviu
Executive Producer Hamish Stening
Erin Bogart, Denzel Bruhn, Rowan Brunt, Siobhan Clifford, Sinead Cristaudo, Lincoln Elliott, Martin Everett, Jacqui Greenfield, Jodie Harris, Rob Hartley, David Hov, Josh McElroy, Courtney Powell, Marcus Rivera, Georgia Rodgers , Carmel Rodrigues, Cypriana Singh, Guy Webster.