REVIEW: Karaoke Boiz (Auckland Pride)

Review by Tim George

[Fountains of Wayne]

A jukebox musical of 70s-90s pop (including ‘9 to 5’, ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, and a Spice Girls medley), Karaoke Boiz is pure fun.

A camp-fuelled tale of love, fame and loss, it tells the story of Wayne (Daryl Wrightson), the self-styled ‘King’ of Karaoke. After his flagging marriage finally flags out, Wayne goes on the road to achieve his dream of becoming the manager of a world-conquering pop group. Along the way, he meets a couple of young up-and-comers, Baby and Posh, a shy bartender and an old friend, Ginger (Hamish McGregor).

Will Wayne achieve his dream (and find true love along the way)?

Written by Daryl Wrightson & Kermath, directed by Tom Sainsbury, with musical direction by Jason Smith and choreography by Dynamotion’s Lara Liew, the show is built around a refreshingly simple story that gives space for the songs.   ending with Split-level twist that reframes the whole story as a certain pop group’s origin story.

It’s pointless going into any deep analysis of the production. This is the equivalent of a Snickers bar – in the best possible way. It’s not meant to be chewed over – it is meant to be consumed in one bite.

There’s no filler to the show – it speeds along like a bullet, careening through musical set pieces and melodramatic character beats with glee. The action never lags; occasionally songs follow each other with no breather. Even the set design adds to the sense of speed -the only mainstay is a long table against the back wall, to symbolise the bar.

You will never be bored.

As the leads, Daryl Wrightson and Hamish McGregor are terrific – Wrightson’s Wayne (boorish but good-hearted) and McGregor’s Ginger (simultaneously grounded and regal) have a great dynamic, culminating in maybe the best/worst cover of ‘I Will Always Love You’ I have ever heard.

As the fellow members of Wayne’s pop group, Zak Enayat, Kermath and Ava Diakhaby offer solid support around Wayne and Ginger’s romance. The brevity of the show means there really is not room for them to get individual showcase moments (although Kermath’s South African accent is hilarious), but they help to keep the festive atmosphere from flagging. Diakhaby in particular has terrific pipes – hopefully she gets some more showcases in the future.

Cherie Moore is also good fun as the ostensible cartoonish villain of the piece. It means more songs and dancing (provided by the trio of Liv Tennet, Jess Hunt and Ash Ogden as the Doo Wop Girls).

There are a couple times where the performers were hard to hear, but that ultimately feels more of a piece with the karaoke experience – you’re with your friends hanging out. You may not hit every note but it is ultimately unimportant.

It’s just a lot of fun, Bring your mum and some booze.

Karaoke Boiz plays Q Loft until 16 February. 

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