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TALENT-LADEN BLAST FROM MANY A PAST

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Photo by Paul McLaughlin
Photo by Paul McLaughlin
The ImpoSTAR: Who Does He Think He Is?
Written by Jason Chasland with Lyndee-Jane Rutherford
Directed by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford
Starring Jason Chasland

at BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
From 6 Dec 2012 to 15 Dec 2012

Reviewed by John Smythe, 7 Dec 2012


Judging by the opening night audience reaction, culminating in a standing ovation, Jason Chasland is onto a winner with The ImpoSTAR: Who Does He Think He Is?

Developed with director Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, the rationale is simply to display his talent and share his passion for musical theatre and theatrical singers; a passion that grew within when he was a quiet and painfully shy farm boy seeking escape from a harsh ‘real world' ... Surely there's a song in that.

Indeed that premise could have provoked an original establishing song rather than Scott Alan's ‘I'm a Star' from his Dreaming Wide Awake album (2007), and gone on to inform a stronger dramatic structure. Instead we are treated to an apparently random plethora of impressions – 24, I counted, plus an encore – interspersed with a bit of autobiographical chat and spiced up with a couple of lyrically naughty parodies.

Clad in basic black, Chasland uses wigs plucked from suitcases plus the odd pair of specs and, for Streisand, a plastic nose, to deliver visual distinction. But it's his extraordinary vocal range that shines through strongest in this 90-minute (including interval) show.

Not that it's all just a matter of soaking up the spectacle. The purposeful omission of a song-and-singers list from the programme stimulates a game of ‘Guess the Artiste' and there is a bit of sing-along to be had too. Actually some in last night's audience sang along with quite a lot.

Given Chasland's passion began with spinning his mother's vinyl collection on the playroom pickup, there is something here for every generation. Without giving too much of the show away, the obvious choices of Judy Garland and Elvis Presley are covered early; there's chubby twisting, flaming cash and seasonal falsetto; a bizarre car ride, a golden horse trot and a touch of gray; a bit of a kiss, a big spender, the perverting of do-re-mi sweetness into a ho unrelated to Santa Claus, a certain puppet from a certain street whose manipulator left under a cloud … and many more.

Some impressions are fleeting while Patti LuPone, Barbara Streisand and Jennifer Holliday get the full treatment. And just the one encore, if you are gaga-gagging for it.

It could be said these are 24 stars in search of a more cohesive system within which to shine, or that it's a shame we don't get the full costume production values we saw when Chasland was an honorary BeatGirl in Spector. But as a talent-laden solo show, supported by a hard-working technical team, it's a blast from many a past. 
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See also reviews by:
 Laurie Atkinson (The Dominion Post);
 Hannah Smith
 Laurie Atkinson (The Dominion Post);