Muriel..Mariel, however you call her, she is back entertaining audiences, this time at the Lyric.

What is it about the gawky girl from Porpoise Spit that so appeals to  audiences? I guess we just love her because she is an underdog and because she is so transparent and plucky.

If you loved P.J Hogan’s autobiographical story as a film  you may be thinking why would I want to see it as a musical. I can see your point of view, the film is an Australian classic. It launched the international careers of two of our finest actresses, Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths.

With this review I will try and twist your arm and persuade you to make a visit to the Lyric. For one thing you will love the vitality and the high energy of this production directed by music theatre wunderkind Simon Phillips.

The show has great production values. There are many set changes during the show and they all work well and complement the action. The costumes were great and suitably outrageous at times, especially when . Both costume and set design were by long time Phillips colleague Gabriela Tylesova.

Andrew Hallsworth’s choreography worked well moving a large cast around the stage with great skill.

The music score includes a lot of catchy songs by Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall together with some great Abba songs.

The performances are all good. Natalie Abbott captures the dagginess and  steeliness of Muriel. Stefanie Jones is memorable as Muriel’s best friend and greatest supporter Rhonda Epinstall,

David James gives a very fine and comic performance as Muriel’s  irascible, devious, condescending father Bill Heslop and Pippa Grandison plays Muriel’s put upon wife Betty Heslop.

Jacob Warner as Perry Heslop and Manon-Gunderson-Briggs as Joanie Heslop play Muriel’s very unsympathetic siblings.

Long time music theatre performer Cheslea Plumley is Bill Heslop’s other woman, Deidra Chambers.

Stephen Madsen  gives a well judged comic performance as Muriel’s boyfriend, well sort of  Alexander Shkuratov.

As Muriel’s dear friends James Harden, Laura Bunting, Maxwell Simon and Evan Lever play the members of super pop group Abba.

There are many highlights in this show of highlights. After seeing the film man y times and having seen Simon Phillips production now in two incarnations my favourite moment remains when Stefanie Jones as Rhonda tells Muriel’s so called friends where to get off.

Highly recommended, MURIEL’S WEDDING THE MUSICAL opened at the Lyric Theatre at the Star on Thursday 4th July and is playing a strictly limited ten week season.

Running time : 2 hours and 49 minutes including one interval

Pics by Ben Apfelbaum