Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington

18/09/2015 - 26/09/2015

Production Details

Whitireia Musical Theatre’s Second Year graduation show.

Quirky, comical look at life at an American school. It’s Mean Girls meets musical theatre. Great score & snappy dialogue. This show has wit, humour, pathos and bite. This is the New Zealand premiere for the show after a sell out run when it was first performed in LA last year.

Serial Killer Barbie follows Barbara through her years at school. As an outcast she desperately try to be friends with the most popular girls in school, the Debbies. When she is finally accepted into their group she realises being a Debbie isn’t what she thought it would be. Barbara decides enough is enough. It’s time the Debbies finally get what they deserve.

Whitireia Performance Centre
18th – 26th Sep 2015

Theatre , Musical ,

Clever exploration of insecurities, frustrations, fears and realisations

Review by Jo Hodgson 20th Sep 2015

On first read of this musical’s title, you could be forgiven for thinking Barbie, the famous ‘anatomically incorrect’ doll has turned psychopathic but it is actually a quick witted, fast paced romp through the turmoils and challenges of schooling – likened to a 12 round boxing match from first grade to the end of high school – with a macabre twist. 

Parker (Alex Taylor) is a precocious 6 year old agonising over what to wear for her first day of first grade. Citing that this is “the first day of the rest of my life,” her choice of attire will make or break her image for her entire school career.  Her mother tries to appease her worries with a banal fairy story but she doesn’t want any “antiquated, bubbleheaded princess story,” she wants a story “based in reality.” And so begins Round 1 …

The enthusiastic company embrace their inner 6 year olds with alacrity in the opening songs ‘What Do I Wear’ and the ‘Crying Song’. BFF’s to-be Barbara (Charlotte Tausilia) and Bruce (Konrad Makisi) meet in the song ‘People Like Us’ but the pressure to conform is already on with Barbara being ostracised for her ‘Paper Bag Lunch’. This scorn is led by the ‘Perfect’ Debbies, comprising ambitious Debb-ie (Georgie Sullivan), queen bee leader Debb-i (Lucy Sewell) and Debb-y (Rebecca Tate), the beautiful, albeit rather dim one.

Barbara loves to hate them but also desperately wants to be one of them. When the opportunity arises to join them in middle school, she rejects her best friend and joins in with their nastiness with hilarious, hurtful and heartfelt consequences.

Colette Freedman’s adroit script is fresh, although the theme is not new – think Heathers and Mean Girls – and it suits this group of performing arts students who are not too far past this school age era. They portray the larger than life characters with a certain sense of knowing.

Nickella Moschetti’s music is catchy and upbeat with great company showstoppers like ‘Middle School Sucks’, poignant solos and duets, particularly ‘Different’ which is sung with beautiful pathos by Charlotte Tausilia and Konrad Makisi. The vocal and physical precision and fun had by these two performers in ‘21 Ways to Kill a Debbie’ is a highlight. 

The comic timing of ‘The Debbies’ is particularly noteworthy. The 12th round between Debb-i and Barbie, circling each other as if in the boxing ring or a vocal battle from ‘the Voice’, bring the show and its characters insecurities, frustrations, fears and realisations together into an exciting final showdown. 

The vibe from the whole cast is one of sheer enjoyment and commitment. Director Alan Palmer and newly appointed musical director Kate Marshall, with choreographers Leigh Evans and Emma Martin, create a streamline production from the simple school set using some static and some moveable colourful boxes with a backdrop of a classroom and corridor wall. Very few props are needed as the story is conveyed through the clever lyrics interpreted with the excellent expressions and emotions of the performers through both their dance and their voices.

Lighting is used to good effect and the balance with the back track music is managed well, given that the performers’ voices are mostly strong with clear diction. Some lines are lost though when the audience erupts into cheers or laughter and due to the piped music, it can’t be held back to await the appreciation. 

Serial Killer Barbie is a clever piece of writing that takes the audience on its own trip down the school memory lane and even though it goes to another level of fiction, there is enough truth and heart to make us react and empathise with the characters as if we were there at school again with them. 

This would be an interesting piece of theatre to show to high school students – warnings about language necessary. It raises many questions for discussion about today’s climate of cyber bullying, teenage depression and suicide, sexual expression and acceptance of all. 


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