Hell School: The Musical
Directed by: James Wenley
Hannah Playhouse, 21st Feb 2023
Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera
“I work 24 hours a day to make this hell a home”, Joker (Jules Daniel) exclaims, and I have to be honest here, Hell School: The Musical does make me feel back at home… in the halls of high school. Dun dun dun.
You either peaked in high school or it was your living hell. Hell School: the Musical encapsulates exactly that, with a little bit of demonic possession and the supernatural to really hammer it home. Hell School captures the ethos of teenage angst, when everything seems like the end of the world. The show exaggerates this but also honours those feelings without diminishing them from a perspective of hindsight.
A product of the Victoria University – Te Herenga Waka Theatre 302: Conventions of Musical Theatre course, Hell School: The Musical is a full-length, well and proper musical with two acts, catchy numbers, plot twists, smashing choreography (Elora Battah), some brilliant lighting effects (show designer Scott Maxim), and an oh-so-suave band, The Butt Plugs. Though the audio was rough – the mics cut in and out and at times the music could be louder than the singing – Hell School was a hellishly devious adventure, sits on extremely promising bones, made everyone laugh maniacally, and had some truly divine moments.
The whole cast wrote and composed the songs, which is a monumental achievement. In fact, I would especially like to praise Lily Fitzgerald as musical director and in her role as Ed… you are so cool. Daniel’s Joker has great stage presence; Jayden (Caleb O’Halloran) and Jessica (Battah), the high school sweethearts, are honest and tender; Liv Pettitt as Dana is the epitome of a snooty celebrity; Sophie Helm, playing Maggie, has a gorgeous voice; former head prefect Alice, portrayed by Annie Black, is expertly acted throughout her entire arc; and Ezra (Aylana Francis-Darrah) is oh-so loveable.
My favourites, however, are Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, and Spades (Zayne Barefoot, Marie Katsanos, Faith Holley, and Lulu Harkness respectively). Oh, you want to know why? I guess you’ll have to go find out! Muahahaha.