MONSTER SONGS A Supernatural Pop Concert

BATS Theatre, The Random Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

23/10/2019 - 30/10/2019

Production Details

The monsters are real, and they’re live in concert with an explosively camp and haunting musical experience with songs from Beetlejuice to Britney Spears.  

From the mad lab team behind POWERHOUSE and Spring Awakening, WITCH has crept back into BATS, with your freaky fix of music theatre this October.

Monster Songs is a love letter to the monsters, misfits and misunderstood — imagined as an underground pop concert spectacle. Featuring out-of-this-world performances, Monster Songs is a Frankenstein’s monster-mash of cult-classic horror tunes, contemporary music theatre, and reinterpreted pop songs that explore and experiment with the idea of the ‘modern monster’. So, come up to the lab, and see what’s on the slab. I see you shiver with antici- …

“Electric, fresh, passionate yet polished, this is musical theatre at its best.” – Annabella Gamboni, Regional News

From the mad lab team behind POWERHOUSE and Spring Awakening, WITCH has crept back into BATS, with your freaky fix of music theatre this October.

BATS Theatre: The Random Stage
23 – 30 October 2019
at 8:30pm
Full Price $25
Concession Price $20
Group 6+ $20

The Random Stage is fully wheelchair accessible; please contact the BATS Box Office by 4.30pm on the show day if you have accessibility requirements so that the appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.

Devon Neiman
Jonathan Morgan
Joseph Mara
Caitlin Penrose
Kree McMillian
Natasha McAllister
Jade Thomson

Producer and Director: Ben Emerson
Music Director: Clinton Zerf
Production Manager and Production Designer [Lighting and Set]: Joshua Tucker
Choreographers: Natasha McAllister, Emily Downes and Leigh Evans
Costume Designer: Jodi Walker
Band: Daniel Hayles 
Sound Engineer and Sound and Lighting Operator: Tane Hipango 
Musical Arrangements and Track Production: Clinton Zerf, Daniel Hayles, Scott Lupton and Michael Korte.

Special thanks for support from:
Peak Audio, MJF Lighting, Chris Harris, Patrick Jennings, Alasdair Watson, Tāwhiri, Te Auaha, Kate Marshall, Regional News, Phantom Billstickers, BATS Theatre, SCENE, Sarah Delahunty, Wellington Dance Studio, Wing It Productions LTD, Circa Theatre, Deb McGuire, Anvil House, Young and Hungry, Deidre Tarrant, Madelaine Empson and Karl Mooyman. 

Theatre , Musical ,

1 hr 45 min

A patchwork of parts – just like Frankenstein’s Monster

Review by Jo Hodgson 25th Oct 2019

After several weeks of hype for this next offering from WITCH, the opening night audience is bubbling with antici………. pation. 

With elevated rostra, The Random stage at Bats, awash with red lit haze (Operator – Tane Hipango),  has been transformed into a pop – concert set up with musician Daniel Hayles already there tinkering on keys and tweeking sound mixers as we enter.

With the name Monster Songs, and having been described as “a love letter to the monsters, misfits and the mis-understood”, I am intrigued to discover how this night will unfold.  

From the first number ‘Day-o’from Beetlejuice,as Devon Neiman, Jonathan Morgan, Joseph Mara, Caitlin Penrose, Kree McMillian, Natasha McAllister, Jade Thomson take the stage, director Ben Emerson, production/lighting designer Joshua Tucker and costume designer, Jodi Walker, have created a feeling of an abandoned basement den of burlesque styled iniquity.

With music from well-known cult, and unfamiliar music theatre – e.g. Rocky Horror, Rent, Beetlejuice, Hadestown, 35 mm – in a monster-mash with pop/rock music culture from the likes of Gaga, Elton John, Bowie, and Stevie Wonder, we are taken on a powerhouse voiced journey into this Halloween season.

The epic arrangements with strong music direction by Clinton Zerf are excellently sung with boy band and Glee-styled harmonies. Daniel Hayles adds more layers to this texture from an exciting array of sound gear and instruments including a key-tar, acoustic guitar and trombone (which thankfully isn’t just decorative – we could have heard more though), on a raised platform in one corner. At times I feel the need for more reprieve from the volume and dense layering of the orchestrations and sound mix, and the variation of less of the pre-record and more of the live accompaniment to give us some more artistic variety. 

Natasha McAllister, Emily Downes and Leigh Evans’sstylised choreography is slick and confidently performed by all seven performers. They each perform completely in their own skin, delivering character-filled performances in their own personal way. The interactions and rapport is strong between everyone on stage although there are times when it feels like it becomes more about the vocal belt and less about the storytelling.

It can be tricky taking some songs away from their musical setting. When having them stand alone out of context, there is another level of clarity needed and this is where I struggle with the articulation in some songs, hampered further by the thickness of the backing and the sound mix which is at times mixed too much, like a pop concert with the expectation that everyone already knows the words rather than a theatre show where we are being introduced to new material, meaning we lose this necessary clarity.

In saying that, we are treated to some fabulously energetic and soulful performances. Each performer takes their turn in the lead and in the supporting roles, so the offering of vocal colours is mixed well.

Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ gets a poignant and a deeply connected rendition by Natasha McAllister – picking up on the theme of how the monsters can come from within as much as without.

Kree McMillian and Jonathan Morgan woo us seductively with their ‘Sweet Transvestite’ from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and, on a side note, either one of these performers could take on this full role. Their voice colours match perfectly together, especially up in the high range!

But it’s especially when the whole cast all come together in insane mash-ups of Lady Gaga songs and Rent and numbers like Brittney’s ‘Oops, I did it again’ that they really get this opening night audience whooping.

For me these mash-ups are clever and exhilarating but there are also times with the familiar melodies of Rent soaring out, I just want to sit with that sound for longer and enjoy an ‘ahhhh’ moment; to get the balance of being challenged and allowed moments to digest the sights and sounds too.

When we think of monsters in a literary setting, the first to come to mind is probably Frankenstein’s Monster and something that my lighting designer friend points out is that the impressive lighting rig has several dormant lamps in amongst it – relics of the past. We then notice several lamps and casings under the raised stage too.

So, what is Monster Songs? It’s a patchwork of parts – just like Frankenstein’s Monster – old and new from the song list spanning several decades to the layering of pre-recorded and live music, to the modern lighting rig hand-in-hand with tech of days gone by, and the contrasting costuming styles with a nod towards the various shows or performers showcased. it is a reminder that not all monsters are the stereotyped hideous creatures we fear but can be found in the trusted and also that not all that seems like a monster is bad. 


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