Part roast battle part musical theatre, Sing It To My Face presents a unique inter-generational musical back-and-forth

Sing It To My Face is a unique musical performance from Barbarian Productions playing in the Auckland Town Hall’s Concert Chamber this weekend. The show is a highly collaborative piece which, as its title suggests, isn’t afraid to get confrontational and emotional.

The show has been performed in different iterations since 2014 when it debuted in Wellington, and this newest rendition draws its source material from surveys conducted throughout Aotearoa about life, society and other generations.

The respondents were categorised into three groups – the under 30s, the 30-60s and the over-60s and each group pulled no punches when it came to frankly discussing the state of the world from their unique generational perspective. Barbarian Artistic Director and well-known writer of screen and stage Jo Randerson amalgamates the responses into a libretto which is then set to music by Musical Director Julian Raphael.

The resulting performance sees the three survey response groups represented by three groups of singers, each with their own opinions (and grievances) to be aired through song. Certainly, this performance is less ‘choral performance’ and more ‘musical theatre’ as movements, dance and spoken word are woven throughout. 

So what themes come up in this intergenerational showdown? It’s evident that there are some issues that need robust dialogue, and it appears the Baby Boomers have a lot to answer for. Climate change, the economy, corporate greed, war… But the Boomers aren’t too worried about it as they saunter out on stage with their brightly-coloured clothes, laughing and patting each other’s backs. In fact, they have a few words of wisdom and admonishment of their own to volley back to Gen X-ers and the Millenials in turn. Obsession with work and image are big issues, as well as apathy when it comes to social and political justice. Not to mention – cellphones! So what do the millenial under-30s have to say to their elders in response? ‘We’re stuffed, thanks to your mistakes’ basically.

Some definite home truths are to be found and appreciated amongst this interactive back-and-forth of ideas, as well as a chuckle or two. The show takes a little while to really get going with a longer performance from the 30-60 group, but is soon invigorated by the arrivals of new groups on stage (with the Baby Boomers being a real highlight).

There’s plenty to keep the eyes and ears occupied as eventually, all three groups hash it out musically on stage, and there are some lovely moments where the intermingling melodies and lyrics create a strong emotional atmosphere in the room.  That said, at times the show feels lacking in nuance, even cheesy (though after all, this is musical theatre) and the addition of audience participation through song felt unnecessary.

Although there is confrontation, hurt and blame lobbed like a tennis ball between the three groups, there is also warmth, appreciation and gratitude. Just as the quibbling and insults start to spiral out of control, a poignant and powerful change is made which helps draw our perspective away from past grievances and look hopefully towards the future.

Sing It To My Face is performing at Auckland Town Hall until 20 October.

Reviewed by Steph Bean