‘Once Upon A Time In Sacramento ’ was alluring.
Abadon Productions stepped into the mysterious, glamorous world of golden-age era show-business with their new work ‘Once Upon a Time in Sacramento’, bringing classic intrigue and scandal to the Brisbane stage.
The show, set in the Archive Bar and Lounge, serves as a home for the up-and-coming starlet, Veronica Rogers and her ruthless husband and manager Albert Rodgers. Everything changes when a Hollywood talent scout visits the bar in search of Rodgers
The hole-in-the-wall venue was below Fritzenberger on Petrie Terrace, and perfectly fit the smoky, grungy atmosphere of the show. It was as if the audience had simply stumbled upon this bar, and been transported back in time to witness the murder mystery. While the space fit the vibe of the show to perfection, the busy restaurant above made action difficult to hear.
Lachlan Engeler, as Albert Rogers, was Veronica’s husband and ruled over her career with his self-perceived iron fist. Engeler was a standout in the show. In a role that could easily enable a performer to get carried away in loud outbursts of emotion, Engeler’s depiction of the character’s anger had notable depth.
Veronica Rodgers and her accompanist Leonard Faravelli were played by Fiona Chu and Lawson Schafer respectively. They were a dynamic duo who compelled and endeared themselves to the audience. Lawson’s perfect awkwardness and Chu’s seductive power and charming musical performances perfectly balanced each other out, and their scenes together were highlights.
Eleanor Crosse, who stepped in for the role of Rita Martense at the twelfth hour, delivered a spirited performance as the scorned ex-wife of Albert Rogers despite a short rehearsal period. Seemingly, the pandemic has taught creatives the importance of having well-prepared understudies available for when something goes haywire.
Tayla Simpson and Beau Jones’s performances as the bar staff was grounded and contrasted perfectly with Liam Donnelly’s high-flying performance of Robert Avery. The cast’s acting as a whole, was deeply truthful and realistic, making for an almost cinematic theatrical experience.
The show was written and directed by Liam Donnelly and was like something straight out of a Ryan Murphy period piece. The characters were distinctive and archetypal of a piece set during the 1930s-40s era, which made their storylines appear predictable until the twist ending shook up the audience’s expectations. A welcome addition to the typical old Hollywood piece was female characters with agency and power. The women in ‘Once Upon a Time in Sacramento’ were the most developed characters, and set out on their own paths, undeterred by the male characters that would traditionally control their every action. This piece could, however, benefit from being extended – the shorter run time gave little room for characters to develop and the audience to form their own relationships with the characters.
Donnelly’s use of the space in his direction truly brought the show to life. They made entrances and exits through the audience and side-of-stage, giving the feeling that the audience was inside a functioning bar. The actors felt familiar and dexterous within the space, helping to bring its realism to life.
‘Abadon Productions’ successfully transported audiences into another time and place. ‘Once Upon a Time in Sacramento’ is a promising new work for the company, and Brisbane audiences should be keeping an eye on what they do next.
‘Once Upon a Time in Sacramento’ performed until 22nd at Fritzenberger. For more information visit Abadon Productions’ Facebook.