Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Musical Theatre

Sweet sounds of girl power nostalgia

20 January 2022

Newcomers Sugarglass Entertainment present a feminist reclamation of ‘00s girl groups and bubblegum pop in an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza, writes Claire Coleman.

Sugar & Ice, Sugarglass Entertainment ·
The Royale Theatre, 19 January, 2022 ·

What’s a girl to do when her path to fame hits a snag? When Sugar & Ice girl group “Starburst” goes on indefinite hiatus, Camilla Moore (played by Jayda D’Agostino) needs to figure out what’s next for her career.

Everyone – from snobby managers to ex-besties to new fans to Tinder matches – wants to tell her what to do, but nobody cares what Camilla wants.

So begins Sugar & Ice. It’s a good story and, though the pace drags at times, it has a couple of nice plot twists at the end. (I didn’t see them coming, although a guy on the other side of the theatre couldn’t contain his “I knew it!” at one key reveal.)

The soundtrack is a banging playlist of ‘00s pop nostalgia. The choreography by Samantha Hortin is executed with music video dazzle.

D’Agostino makes a solid lead, blessing fame-obsessed Camilla with some likeability. Emma Haines as villainous manager Maxine Fox grabs attention with her Christina Aguilera-style vocal tone. Her rendition of “Mamma Knows Best” is a real wow moment.

A couple of bit players deserve special mention. Comedian of the night goes to Tinder rogue Jesse, played by Joshua Firman, whose scene stealing balance of manipulation and charisma elicits big laughs from the audience.

But the dark horse of the cast is Katie Green. Playing the classic bimbo-cum-pregnant teen with light-handed slapstick, she still finds enough nuance in Lavina to protect the character from eye-rolling derision. Green’s solo, Rihanna’s “Final Goodbye”, demonstrates stunning agility and consistency across her range.

Promotional image from Sugar & Ice, oictured is 5 individuals all in white mid-dance. In the spotlight a blonde woman stands one foot pointed as she sings.
Emma Haines’ rendition of rendition of “Mamma Knows Best” is a real wow moment. Photo: Cass Evans-Ocharern

Musically, the standout number is the show’s closer, “The Beginning” by Little Mix. Performed a cappella by Starburst plus Penny (Tabitha Kerlin), every voice has a moment to dazzle.

Sugar & Ice is an ambitious debut for Sugarglass Entertainment writer/director Saskia Glass and producer Sharon Ware. Playing at new venue The Royale Theatre with a massive 15-member cast, they have produced a mid-budget local musical that holds itself like a grand theatrical work – and good on them.

While opening night had quite a few technical hitches with microphone balance that tarnished several numbers, it’s clear that all the key creatives involved have chops. While there’s room to grow here, it’s great to see emerging artists reaching for the stars and hitting the moon.

Sugar & Ice continues until Sunday 23 January.

Pictured top: ‘Sugar & Ice’ recalls the best of Girl Power pop from the early 00’s. Photo: Cass Evans-Ocharern

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Author —
Claire Coleman

Dr Claire Coleman is a pop musicologist, choral conductor and musician. She trained classically in piano, but wrote her doctorate on nostalgia in indie folk, and continues to lecture remotely in pop music studies in Berlin and London. Claire compares the high of bullying strangers into singing to doing hypothetical illicit drugs, so watch out or you might end up an unwitting participant in one of her choral adventures.

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