Making its debut in 2000, Bare is a rock musical by Jon Hartmere Jr. and Damon Intrabartolo centred on the secret relationship between two gay high school students and the daily struggles they and their classmates face at their private Catholic boarding school.
Much like Spring Awakening in the age of Skins (the original, grittier British season), Bare delves into a uniquely cathartic take on personal struggles with sexuality, religion and identity. Supply Evolution’s Sydney season at Marrickville’s hidden gem, The Depot Theatre, establishes why Bare has gathered such a cult following – and why it deserves to be held in the same esteem of modern rock musicals such as Rent.
With a few simple, moveable set pieces, this production is a great example of how a grand, costly set isn’t always necessary to create visually exciting theatre. Effective direction and choreography from the passionate Hannah Barn, paired with vivid lighting work, maintain an exciting pace throughout the show. By the end, I hardly noticed that over two hours had flown by.
Aaron Robuck is well cast as Peter, creating great empathy for our confused and love-struck lead. Opposite Robuck in the role of Peter’s lover Jason, Alex Jeans effectively delivers his character from an aloof jock to a complicated and defeated young man.
The drama unfolding against their school production of Romeo & Juliet is genius, and the rhythmic workings of classic lines is sure to please even the most casual of Shakespeare fans.
All of the young cast are really superb in their roles, but special mention must go to Natalie Abbott as Jason’s sister Nadia. Her strong and unique voice pairs harmoniously with her handling of this witty and loveable character, especially in numbers ‘Plain Jane Fat Ass’ and ‘Spring’.
The scenes where we delve into Peter’s dreams and fantasies are delightful. Annette Vitetta steals the show as Sister Chantelle/“The Virgin Mary” in ‘911 Emergency!’ as she descends to help Peter grapple with the challenge of coming out to his mother. (I may add, it’s also rather a positive interpretation of a role originally scripted for an African American.)
Perhaps Bare’s most endearing feature is the way it handles its characters. As Barn enthusiastically summarises in her Director’s Note: “They are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ they are authentic, honest and raw.”
This staging of Bare is timely, considering that same sex marriage is still a hotly debated issue in this country. The overshadowing presence of strict Catholicism in Bare echoes the out-dated religious concerns which are largely behind the blocking of the rights of all to marry.
This is an energetic and rousing production, not be missed by any self-respecting musical theatre fans in Sydney. (AM)
Until Dec 17 (Wed-Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm). The Depot Theatre, 142 Addison Road, Marrickville. $42-$49. Tickets & info: www.thedepottheatre.com/bare