New British musicals are few and far between nowadays, but the Brighton Fringe is the one place where they are bound to be found. Summer Street: The Hilarious Aussie Soap Opera Musical, despite its title suggesting otherwise, is just one of those new British musicals.
A wonderfully tongue in cheek depiction of Australian golden-age soap operas
Summer Street sees four has-been soap opera stars reunite for a one-off, comeback TV special. Tensions in old friendships are pulled tight again, old flames are rekindled, but not everything is the same between the band of eccentric actors. Each of the four actors has lost their way, and only stepping back onto Summer Street, the world's first musical soap opera, will help them find their place in life again.
Unfortunately for a show as fun and irreverent as this, the late show time may have caused the smaller-than-normal Warren audience to be a little quiet, with some of the jokes and one-liners falling flat as the musical got underway. Perhaps audiences weren’t quite as knowledgeable about the Aussie soap opera legacy as they imagined, so references to tropes, characters, and shows were sometimes missed.
Additionally, the overarching message of the musical felt a little lost towards the end, with the final twists and turns (delightful nevertheless) perhaps coming slightly too late and possibly posing too many new questions in the final moments to make a satisfying ending.
However, the show as a whole was a slick and tightly run piece despite the mayhem and intentionally wobbly acting playing out in the story’s rehearsal scenes. The book in particular was strong, with a very catchy score accurately evoking 90s cheese through harmonies and pop music, and the whole cast’s great vocal talent is impossible not to mention.
Structurally, Summer Street was very cleverly put together and made for an engaging and very unique show, with storylines in the TV soaps running alongside and mirroring and blending in with the real life storylines of the characters.
Even if the pastiche-ridden story failed to resonate for the whole audience, it was charmingly ridiculous and funny throughout and a wonderfully tongue in cheek depiction of Australian golden-age soap operas.
If you would like an hour dipping into a world where life imitates soap and soap imitates a strange, high drama world that can only exist on the small screen, then settle into Summer Street.