A cleverly conceived musical spectacle, Drummer Queens is boosted by confident theatricality and high production values.
Showcasing eight highly talented female performers, Drummer Queens features not just an extraordinary variety of drumming but also moments of dance, all linked by atmospheric character work. A distant relative of the prolific Cirque du Soleil series (blessedly free of the creepy clowns), Drummer Queens imparts a sense of wonder as its set list unfolds with an organic sense of spontaneity.
Touring to ten Australian locations, Drummer Queens is a surprisingly elaborate production, its grand settings fairly bursting out of the performance space of the Comedy Theatre. With the deliberately gritty vibe of a subterranean lair, Adrienn Lord and Richard Neville’s soaring arches and complex pipes would make an ideal home for the climactic craps game of Guys and Dolls.
With a visual theme of militant underground workers, Lord has dressed each of the women in their own distinctive variation on the costuming, facilitating each performer to convey their own named character.
Billed as creative director, Nigel Turner-Carroll has successfully added ongoing variety to the succession of musical numbers, the character work of the cast providing lively sparks of interest and humour.
As creator, composer and musical supervisor, Joe Accaria displays a fertile, eclectic musical imagination. Often drumming to recorded music, the players also move on to the marimba tones of the xylophone, perform acoustically just with drumsticks, create call-and-answer rhythms with the audience, tap dance and even pick up their own heartbeats with microphones.
Choreographer Peta Anderson plays to the individual women’s strengths in staging moments of acrobatic dance. The creative team as a whole ensures that the stage is never static for more than a few seconds, keeping drummers, sets and lights in constant, smoothly synchronised motion.
Just when every trick and hidden prop of the staging appears to have been utilised, the production impressively raises the stakes for the final third of the show with the introduction of a full width suspended platform, that not only rises and falls but also precariously seesaws. At this point, Neville’s lighting also kicks up a gear, utilising zig zagged beacon strips that are programmed in spectacular choreographed displays of colour.
All cast members have their moments to shine, also working superbly as a team. Georgia Anderson projects a delightful warmth as Bey-B. Niki Johnson (Switch) proves a dab hand on the xylophone. Stef Furnari (Rebel) performs a memorable solo during the number “Military,” at one point keeping two drumsticks playing with one arm while using the other hand to run a cheeky comb through her hair. Sasha Lin Diaz performs an incredible solo tap dancing and drumming routine; beating two drums while tapping double wings – bravo!
Perhaps not the ticket for theatregoers who prefer drama queens, the energy and spectacle of Drummer Queens is ideal family entertainment, sure to be terrifically inspiring for children who learn musical instruments.
Drummer Queens will tour to Brisbane, Wollongong, Perth. Albany, Mandurah, Bunbury, Canberra and Adelaide. For tickets, click here.
Photos: David Hooley