The Hayes Theatre Company is set to reopen next month with a performance of Young Frankenstein. Their Sydney Festival romp, Rewired : Musicals Reimagined was a  showcase for the regular creatives and versatile vocal and acting talent connected with the Hayes. 

Its fresh take on established musical  theatre favourites sets our regular theatre-going sensibilities on fire. The amazing moments of musical transformation via huge makeovers are stunning new strains for us to cherish. 

This slick super medley of an event  features six voices, four band members and three musical directors who are frequently featured at the Hayes Theatre. 

All these fine threads are drawn together by director Richard Carroll with momentum nicely maintained through the dynamic work of Virginia Gay as MC and performer.

There is amazing physicality and great timing as the new versions touch us with perfect comic as well as expressive timing. The strong audience reaction was full of mask-chuffing laughter, and safe hooting, whistling and welcome exposure to local musical theatre talent.

The show opened with Trevor Ashley as Liza Minelli slaying ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’ from Sunset Boulevard. This was the first of Ashley’s four drag spot shows producing  cover versions of Andrew Lloyd Webber hits.

The ensuing brackets from other cast members were wedged between Ashley’s fine musical mimicry. His standout was Shirley Bassey performing ‘Gethsemane’ from Jesus Christ Superstar. The Bassey gestures, facial expressions and tone in the role of Jesus was a total hoot to watch.

Ashley’s final portrait to end the mammoth folio of a show as Cher singing the title track from Starlight Express was also a gift for any fan or former star of musicals in the assembled audience.

The rewiring of existing musicals via taut and savage re-arrangements of the stage classics was a credit to the trio of Musical Directors: Michael Tyack, Issac Hayward and Jeremy Brennan. These directors and band supported and interacted brilliantly with the singers in these versions.

We were exposed to the magic of a queer Oklahoma! via Emily Havea’s female Curly. Her bold vocal transformations, complete with energetic banjo wielding, created a fabulous characterisation. This twenty-first century Curly burst from the York Theatre stage as it did in the recent Black Swan Theatre production.

Ryan Gonzalez was in fine voice and working from dizzy Latin heights as he presented hits from Oliver! – in a new sound world for tunes such as Oliver’s ‘Where Is Love?’ through to svelte new comment from Fagan.

Toby Francis led a consummate attack sans hesitation or any barricade whatsoever on Les Misérables. Realising Isaac Hayward’s punk-metal medley, he used authentic metal vocal acrobatics and movement to take us totally beyond the musical hit to a fresh extra day at a successful gig.

Olivia Vasquez and Michael Tyack’s massive attack on Rogers and Hammerstein classics updated Sound Of Music and South Pacific  in a hip and heady pastiche of styles including rap, a lounge music groove and a Maria Von Trapp meets post-Christmas Mariah Carey turn had us on the edge of that theatre seat we were missing all 2020.

This appropriate SYDFEST 2021 fare deserves a tour and a recording, with YouTube exposure, to raise the bar on current cover versions. This was a formidable welcome back to the future of theatre from a continuing classic, the Hayes Theatre Company.

Featured image: Emily Havea and Virginia Gay perform the love duet from ‘Oklahoma’. All production photography by Yaya Stempler