It is the live taping of the Truswells’ evangelical TV show, we enter the space as they are preparing for the show and five, four, three, …….. we are live. Welcome to Miracle City, a musical that takes you on an evangelical journey down a very dark path.
The entire musical is real time. We arrive as they prepare to go live and we walk out of the theatre not long after they finish taping. It is a testament to Nick Enright‘s book that a lot happens in this short space of time and yet it does not feel rushed or forced. Ricky Truswell is praying for you and wants to save your soul. He is also building Miracle City, a wonderful Christian city with biblical theme parks, lavish churches and love oozing out of every brick. Ricky and Lora-Lee are the perfect, loving christian couple with two adorable children. Lora-Lee’s blonde wig and fluorescent white teeth will guide you to salvation – and to donation. That’s right, its the ‘televangical’ couple asking for your money to help them build their dream holy city. Ricky and Lora-Lee are also in debt and over the next 90 minutes their perfect veneer cracks and shatters before our eyes.
Max Lambert has written some wonderful soulful and gospel music in this show. Not always does it reach its full power in this production but it never drags. The hit of the night is the emotionally charged I’ll Hold On. It’s the showstopper – literally. Missy Higgins version is perfectly pitched emotionally and the show has to pause for the audience’s response. Another great song of the night is Raise The Roof although it felt like it was only dialled up to 9 and I wanted 11.
The cast are all very good. Gus Murray is a standout. His obsessively driven Ricky is charismatic and strong on camera while fractured and flawed off camera. He is completely believable and the warmth that be brings to the role keeps us from absolute abhorrence at him, if not from his choices, at the end of the production. Kellie Rode gave a beautiful performance as Lora-Lee. Nicely balanced as she moved from effervescent and airy to devastated and lost. Anthony Phelan gives Millard Sizemore just the right amount of creepiness to this evangelical minister who has a deal to save the Tresswells. Personally I felt the age gap between Sizemore and Loretta was pushed a little far and credibility was strained but Phelan and Darren Yap (Director) crafted well the moments to allow a strong emotive response despite little actually happening. Jessica Vickers, Liam Hunan, Missy Higgins, Josie Lane and Lara Mulcahy all gave solid performances. Finn Bradley was adorable as the ‘sweet-as-pie’, sparkling toothed, son of a preacher man.
James Browne‘s set did not quite feel at home in the Opera house’s Studio Theatre. The audience sitting around the thrust stage as the performers acted towards the ‘TV cameras’ while the cheap flats were moved in, out and spun around by stage hands for each segment of the show. It looked a little like a low budget production rather than a successful remounting of the sellout Hayes Theatre show. Hugh Hamilton’s lighting and Sean Peter‘s sound design all worked in well with the overall design.
Miracle City is an entertaining gospel train trip down a dark lane. It is a great night out with wonderful performances, great songs and an interesting story line that will have you talking in the foyer about what you think happens next to the Tresswells. Go See.
Performance details below
Lynden Jones – Theatre Now & On The Town
Prolific Australian playwright, Nick Enright and award-winning composer Max Lambert’s critically acclaimed Australian musical will have you on your feet with your hands raised in praise!
12 – 28 Oct 2017
Wed – Sat 8:15pm
Sat 3pm matinee
Venue: Sydney Opera House Studio Theatre
Theatre Company: Presented by Sydney Opera House in association with The Theatre Division
Duration: 90 min (no interval)