Phoenix Ensemble’s Jasper in Deadland is a wonderfully weird and whacky underworld adventure featuring a superbly talented cast that breathes new life into all the well-known creatures of the nether. This pop-rock musical was written in 2011 by Hunter Foster and Ryan Scott Oliver and premiered at the Los Angeles Festival of New Musicals. Phoenix Ensemble’s rendition marks the Queensland debut of Jasper in Deadland.
16-year-old Jasper braves the underworld to save his best friend, Agnes, and bring her back to the world of the living. But in Deadland, Jasper encounters a fusion of mythology, religion, and superstitions. Jasper battles through the seven circles of Deadland, confronting fearsome and strange characters such as Cerberus, Mr. Lethe, Loki and Hel, Ammut, Pluto, Persephone and Eurydice in his quest to rescue Agnes.
From the very first moment that the music starts and the lights glow, it is clear that Jasper in Deadland is a show created with a clear vision. The set design by Justin Tubb-Hearne is simple but extremely effective featuring a mountainous backdrop with fluorescent neon lines. The audience is seamlessly transported from the living world to the nether. The costumes also designed by Justin Tubb-Hearne are simply to die for! From Agnes’s red hoodie to Ammut’s fabulous animal print to Persephone’s headdress, every detail of the costume design is perfect.
One of the technical aspects of Jasper in Deadland that is extremely well done is the lighting design. This was created by Liam Gilliland and it is spectacular. The lights effortlessly support every moment of the show, transporting the audience from Jasper’s bedroom to Mr. Lethe’s office to the darkest corners of the underworld using a vast array of different colour spectrums. The sound design by Jacob Cash is smooth and everything works as it must. The singers are easily heard, the instruments are well-balanced, and the dialogue is clear.
Directed by Justin Tubb-Hearne, Phoenix Ensemble’s Jasper in Deadland is a joy to experience. Each performer on the small stage has clear direction and motivations. The staging wonderfully paints the picture of Deadland and makes even the most magical moments seem believable. Bravo! Hayley Marsh’s musical direction is tremendous. The pop-rock vibe of the songs is carried throughout the show and the harmonies are spot on. The singers are effortlessly supported by a small talented orchestra who never misses a beat. Isabelle Quayle’s choreography creates the perfect mix of dance and comedy and carries the energy of this production throughout.
As the young hero of the story, Elliot Gough is the perfect casting choice for Jasper. Elliot’s authenticity shines through as he traverses a wide range of emotions. Elliot excels not only at portraying a conflicted teenager but also in his comedic timing. Elliot’s strong voice is a credit to this production and carries the tricky lead vocals with confidence and ease.
Without a doubt, Mikeal Bobart as Gretchen and Agnes is the definite standout performer of Jasper in Deadland. Mikeal’s vocals are simply stunning in every song; she hits every difficult note with extreme ease and sings from the heart. Mikeal’s take on the quirky Gretchen is so enjoyable that the audience can’t help but love her. She is an absolute star!
Another standout performance is that of Tristan Ham as the villainous Mr. Lethe. Tristan’s comedic timing and facial expressions are hilarious and he often has the audience in stitches throughout the night. Laura Gordon’s sassy Ammut is another standout from the strong ensemble. Laura’s vocals are gorgeous and her acting is hilarious.
Sophia Dimopoulos as Eurydice is an amazing vocalist who blows the audience away when she sings. She is the perfect Eurydice in her long, flowy blue gown. Jessica Ham portrays Persephone as well as one third of Cerberus with extreme skill and a wonderful singing voice that carries many of the ensemble harmonies throughout.
Together, Jessica Ham, Hayley Jones and Taylor Holmes play Cerberus creating some of the most spectacular harmonies in the whole show. Shane Webb as Pluto and Rebecca Kenny-Sumiga as Beatrix are both utterly entertaining. Rebecca’s portrayal of Little Lu is one of the best comedic moments of the show.
Lawson Schafer as Virgil, Erin Hall as Hathaway, Harley Roy as Osiris and AJ Betts as Loki round out this extremely strong supporting cast that carries Jasper all the way through Deadland. Harley’s moment in the spotlight as Osiris rocks the stage is highly memorable. The cast also features a fabulously talented ensemble including Ella Oliphant, Jamie Lee Kemp, Tiffany Minter, Louisa Laing and Rachael King.
Overall, Phoenix Ensemble’s production of Jasper in Deadland is one that you will certainly not want to miss. This show features hilarious characters, witty dialogue, pop-song songs to jam out to and a wonderfully, whacky underworld journey! What is not to love? Bravo!
Jasper in Deadland plays at the Pavilion Theatre Beenleigh Showgrounds until Saturday 27 November and tickets are on sale now here. Do not miss this!