Matthew Lee Robinson’s Happy People
There is something innately appealing about children’s entertainment. Whether you are 8 or 80, the presenters’ infectious energy and unrelenting happiness can win over even the darkest of hearts. But there is a dramatic difference between the world in front of the cameras and the realities of real life, something which Matthew Lee Robinson explores in Happy People.
In order to any kind of entertainment to resonate with an audience it has to be relatable. Sometimes this means that the characters remind the audience of themselves. Sometimes the music takes people back to a specific time in their lives. Other times, it is set in an all too familiar setting.
After the great success of Atlantis earlier this year, Matthew Lee Robinson returns to Chapel off Chapel with this Australian premiere of his new show Happy People. Set in the world of children’s entertainment, Happy People examines the onstage/offstage lives of America’s most popular children’s performing group during their tenth anniversary as they slowly descend into chaos.
There probably isn’t a setting that is more universally familiar than children’s entertainment. I doubt that there would be many (if any) people out there who haven’t had some experience with this performance style during their lives whether as a child or a parent. But the experience holds slightly different meaning for someone out of their target demographic. As an adult, the contrast between the fun and games and real life is all too clear. Where is the ironing? Where are the mundane tasks? And why can’t I be that happy all the time?
It was this observation that formed the catalyst for Matthew Lee Robinson to write Happy People. “I was inspired after a catching an episode of Hi-5 in the mid-2000’s to write HAPPY PEOPLE. I was amazed at the relentless bubble and fizz of Charli Delaney in particular and desperate to know what the backstage life of a children’s entertainer might be, what they must have to suppress to get on with the job. The whole show has a smile, a wink and a stab in the back.”
Exploring the lives of four actors; Sally, Sunny, Benny and Bobby alongside their internationally famous suited character Edison the Elephant, Happy People follows performers too old to still be in the children’s entertainment game. Navigating the tricky waters of a marriage break up between two members, one desperate to become a pop star, another addicted to elicit substances and one on the verge of a nervous breakdown, this show examines the contrast between the ideal setting of children’s entertainment and the reality once the cameras have switched off. A contrast which most people can relate to – unless you truly are full of bubble and fizz 100% of the time.
Staring Gretel Scarlet (Grease), Sun Park (Mamma Mia!, Hi-5), Bobby Fox (Jersey Boys, Hot Shoe Shuffle), Tom Sharah (That 90’s Show, I Will Survive), Bert LaBonte (The Mountaintop, Atlantis) and Robyn Arthur (Mother & Son), Happy People is making its Australian premiere after New York workshops and dramaturgical input by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, Godspell).
Saturday 18th October – 4:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday 19th October – 2:00pm & 6:00pm
Chapel off Chapel (The Loft), 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Bookings: (03) 8290 7000 or www.chapeloffchapel.com.au
Tickets: $39 / $35 (concession)