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Read: State Highway 48 has a great cast but a few plot problems

Opening Night must be a bittersweet moment for any theatrical troupe. There’s the excitement, the nerves, and of course the intense worry about how your show will be perceived. There is also that lingering fear that something will go wrong and upset months, and sometimes years of planning and hard work. 

Unfortunately the opening night of State Highway 48 had several things go wrong. First up, it started half an hour late, and was plagued with audio troubles throughout the night. Even worse, one of the cast came very close to a serious accident when she fell off a table half way through a number. Thankfully she didn’t miss a note and carried on as though nothing had happened. 

The basic storyline of the show concerns Sharon (Delia Hannah) and Dave (Steve O’Reilly) and their two kids, Sam (Rupert Archer) and Emma (Tia Ormsby).  All is not well in the household. Both parents are middle aged and the marriage is unravelling. The kids are confused and unhappy. 

Then, spoiler alert……  Dave gets fired from his job and his life falls apart. 

The central issue at the heart of the show is the mid life crisis Dave is having and his seeming inability to communicate how he feels. He is also dealing with depression and an inner critic (The Black Dog, played very well by Chris Tempest). 

State Highway 48 is fundamentally about a white suburban middle aged couple whose marriage is on the rocks. They have credit card debt and a mortgage to pay and two children who worry about which parent will make their lunch should mummy and daddy divorce.  

And for me that’s a problem. While I’m not diminishing depression and anxiety, that can strike any social strata, these characters issues didn’t seem bad enough and they still had a huge amount of privilege in their life. 

Despite their troubles, Dave still manages to move out and find an apartment and get job offers. Sharon still manages to go out on the town in a slinky dress, drink chardonnay with her mates and get hit on by men. The kids main worry seems to be which parent will make their lunch.

There is one moment when Dave is alone in his own apartment and facing the stark reality of his situation where the show comes tantalisingly close to delivering an unforgettable moment of drama. It was followed by Patrick Kelly (Benny) delivering possibly the most poignant song in the show Talk To Me Brother. But that moment quickly passes and the show misses the opportunity to illustrate one of the biggest issues facing our communities today.  

But enough about plot – lets talk about the performances.

Delia Hannah and Steve O’Reilly are remarkably good. Both of them have strong and powerful voices that are a pleasure to listen to. In songs such as Eyes Wide Open, How Have You Been,   and Is it too Late To Try Again they complement each other beautifully. 

The ensemble cast were mostly good. As mentioned above, Patrick Kelly was great, and Jenn Shelton gave a good performance in The Assassin’s Song despite, falling during the number.  

The rest of the cast managed well, but none really had the chance to truly shine and two seemed miss their footing at times. 

In terms of the score, there were some good songs but many of them relied too heavily on rhyming couplets. 

State Highway 48 has some great talent, and some good moments in it and touches on things we need to face, but it needs more time to work out exactly what it stands for and what it wants its audience to know. 

*Editor’s note – this review has been slightly modified since it was originally published. I have changed some of the language I consider harsher than the meaning I intended.

State Highway 48

15-17 October 2019 – Auckland 

for booking information click here

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