Abadon Productions burst onto the Brisbane theatre scene with their glamorous, seductive maiden production Once Upon A Time in Sacramento last week. Once Upon A Time In Sacramento was the perfect mix of old school Hollywood charm and crime drama evocative of golden era film noir.
Set in the small, secretive world of the Archive Bar & Lounge, the audience stumbled into the intrigue as if by chance. The setting in the underground bar, Fritzenberger on Petrie Terrace, was the perfect choice for this show. The action unfolded in front of and around the audience in an experience that was immersive as actors emerged from side-stage and through the audience seamlessly.
Written by Liam Donnelly, this original work centres on Veronica Rogers, the talented vocalist singing at the Archive, and her tumultuous relationship with her husband and manager, Albert Rogers. Veronica’s world is turned upside down when a Hollywood talent scout, Robert Avery, comes to town and offers her the opportunity to escape her life and pursue stardom. But Albert is not likely to let Veronica go without getting a piece of the pie. Tensions skyrocket when Albert’s ex-wife, Rita Martense, resurfaces and Veronica’s bond with shy, awkward pianist Leonard Faravelli continues to grow.
The storyline of this show was absolutely riveting from beginning to end. From multifaceted, complex characters to strong women with spades of agency; Once Upon A Time In Sacramento was excellently written. This show shows a lot of potential for growth into a full-length production. The elements of film noir are prominent throughout and future development of this concept will benefit from expanding on this and challenging the genre further.
Liam Donnelly’s expert Direction produced a show that is polished and professional. The transitions are smooth and every aspect of the blocking is clearly through through. Producing a show that, although short, feels intentional. Adding some additional run time to this production would have facilitated more in-depth character development.
In the role of Veronica Rogers, Fiona Chu was simply divine. Fiona proved herself a marvellous actor with a particular talent playing the subtle aspects of Veronica’s character. Fiona performed a number of classic musical numbers with absolute perfection. Her vocals were a standout from the show.
Lachlan Engeler as the terrifying, abusive husband, Albert Rogers, was spectacular. Lachlan is without a doubt the standout performer of this show. Lachlan’s acting is nuanced and layered with multiple, complex motivations that make Albert seem real. Bravo!
In the roles of bartender Richie Ainsley and waitress Jessica Coburn were Beau Jones and Tayla Simpson respectively. Beau’s performance was the perfect portrayal of the solemn, serious bartender. His performance was excellently executed from beginning to end. Tayla Simpson was sensational. Tayla proved herself a skilled actor able to portray the complex emotions of Jessica with ease and authenticity.
Stepping into the role of Rita Martense on short notice due to COVID was the lovely Eleanor Crosse. Eleanor’s performance was beautifully done with a skill that clearly shows her strong ability to adapt and adapt quickly. Despite reading from the script occasionally, Eleanor delivered a character that felt believable. Well done.
Lawson Schafer excelled in his portrayal of the shy, love-struck pianist Leonard Faravelli. Lawson acquitted himself as an actor with immense skill; creating a believable quirky character without falling into the trap of stereotyping.
Writer and Director, Liam Donnelly, took on the role of the suave Hollywood talent scout, Robert Avery, with skill. Liam’s acting was the perfect contrast to the other men in this show; a character that, though still toxic, hides behind an allure of success. Liam’s performance was executed with precision and a dedication to the characterisation from beginning to end.
Overall, Abadon Productions have created something truly special. Once Upon A Time In Sacramento was an alluring journey that peels back the illusions of old school Hollywood charm and draws on the stunning traditions of noir with immense success. This show has incredible potential for future development and Bravo Brisbane cannot wait to see what Liam Donnelly and his team at Abadon Productions does next. Bravo!