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August 9, 2010 | by  | in Theatre |
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Band Substances

Band Substances was the second Fringe Bar musical comedy night of the year. While it couldn’t live up to the first one, where the Flight of The Conchords did a “surprise” set, it was a better produced and more sustained night of musical comedy. I am crediting producer and supporting performer Robbie Ellis for much of this. The man is a musical genius with an acute comic bend. Bringing the musical comedians/comic musicians of Wellington together and making them perform with a seven piece band instead of just a guitar and a smile was a good idea executed well. Rumour has it that he arranged most of the music too.

The night was a mix of comic song, musical gimmickry and “normal music”. Some was amusing yet disposable: The Fringe Bar Operatic Soloists performing operatic versions of popular music is a sort of thing that I’ve often heard before but was happy to listen to. Other sets were rather marvelous though: I consider Matt Mulholland Wellington’s best kept comedy secret; every time I see the lad he delights me, and his new songs were no exception.

The different energies of the performances gelled together rather breezily, with the exception of three staggered character songs performed by members of improv soap The Young and the WITless (Paul Sullivan and Karen Anslow), which melded a brief moment of character-based improv with a musical standard. I didn’t get these sequences—they weren’t funny enough to be comedy and not captivating enough musically to keep my attention. The songs were really well performed, but it felt like unnecessary filler.

I understand that musical comedy takes ages to write and score, but I saw a large portion of material that I, and most of the crowd were overly familiar with, including stuff that was performed at the last music comedy gig in April. This isn’t an insurmountable problem, but it makes me fear for the sustainability of such a show.

Ellis’s new arrangements did keep the old content from becoming overly stifling and, in fact, made some of the songs more interesting than they ever were. Sarah Harpur’s songs especially benefited as her lyrics are grand but her music is often a bit mechanical. Gabriel Page, the headliner of the night, also responded well to the backing band treatment. The man writes some highly amusing love songs, and seemed almost like a legit rocker up there, and that was cool to see.

Band Substances
July 30, Fringe Bar

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Nic Sando is a god amongst men, fifteen fathoms high he be, with strange and wyrd powers at his disposal. Only a fool won't harken his ears to the east when he hears The Sando man stumping his way.

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