The beat goes on, as does girl power. Dein Perry’s Tap Dogs blended live music with creative tap dancing the likes of which we hadn’t seen before and it was electrifying. That kicked off a quarter of a century ago. A few years earlier a British idea saw everyday objects such as rubbish bin lids, brooms, matchboxes and lighters blended with rhythm and acrobatics to excite the masses in Stomp.
Now, creator, composer and musical supervisor Joe Accaria is hoping to do the same thing to the art of drumming with Drummer Queens. Accaria worked on and off with creative director Nigel Turner-Carroll since 2013 and honed his ideas after a group workshop in October 2020. The thought was that there are all female drumming groups in Asia, South America, Africa and beyond, so why not in our own backyard, right here in Oz?
After all, there is no getting away from the primal nature of drumbeats. Now let’s layer it and add some sophistication and see where we get to. Accaria comes from a rock background and he has also fused electronic and orchestral instruments into this stage show, where colourful lighting (by Richard Neville) too plays an important role.
There are eight drummer queens and 25 numbers spread over the best part of an hour and a half without interval. I don’t profess to be a drum expert, but a number of shapes and sizes are beaten during the production, including acoustic drums, tom-toms, hand drums, snares and kettle drums, to name but a few. What stands out from the get go is the enthusiasm of the performers, often reflected in broad, beaming smiles. They are having fun and invite us to join them. At times they are decidedly cheeky and don’t we just love it!
Among the standouts is Stef Furnari, who has turned vigorous drumbeating into an art form. She has learnt more than a few “tricks” along the way, including spinning the drumsticks, “wowing” all assembled. Peta Anderson (who also choreographs the show) goes from playing deliberately naïve to masterful as a tap dancer extraordinaire, light on her feet and handy with the sticks at the same time. Georgia Anderson is a bundle of energy, noteworthy for her tumbling athleticism as well as her drumming skills.
My personal highlight came after the stage went dark late in the piece and the drumsticks starting glowing (neon red and blue), with uniforms that followed suit. Sensational. Incidentally, it is not just drums that are the play things for the night, but a mega xylophone, cymbals, beatboxes, drumsticks being knocked together, handclapping and more. Sound design is by Michael Waters.
The heavy-duty, two tier industrial set featuring three semi-circular rigs makes quite the impression as you enter the Comedy Theatre. Production design is from Adrienn Lord and Richard Neville. Two wheel-in, wheel-out platforms each have – on the top level – two full drum kits, while the other drums required are moved in and out.
Costuming by Adrienne Lord is right on the money. I speak of “dirtied” yellow and white ensembles with black boots, “serious” black belts and black accoutrements. Strapped to the girls’ legs are gun slinger-like holsters containing … wait for it – a complement of drumsticks. Towards the end, more elegant “storm trooper” outfits are the go – some all-black numbers and others featuring striking red tops and black pants.
The opening night crowd certainly warmed to what was on offer in Drummer Queens and why wouldn’t they? My only minor frustration was that one of the drummers persisted in chewing gum through the show and I wasn’t the only one to find that off-putting. Easily fixed, save it for before and after the main event, for it has no place on stage. That aside, Drummer Queens is slick and sassy.
It is playing at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne until 8th May and Lyric Theatre QPAC in Brisbane from 11th to 16th May. The crew then moves to Illawarra Performing Arts Centre in Wollongong from 8th to 11th June and Crown Theatre in Perth from 15th to 17th June. For further dates and venues, go to www.drummerqueens.com
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Lennox: Legend in my Living Room (Chapel off Chapel)
- Taming of the Shrew (Queensland Theatre) – Theatre Review
- Stomp ’18 (touring) – theatre review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.