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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Grumpiest Boy in the World (Victorian Opera) at Arts Centre Melbourne - 40 minutes

Colourful, playful and infused with humour, The Grumpiest Boy in the World is a short, one act opera.

It has been adapted from the children’s book of the same name by Finegan Kruckemeyer, with a score by Joe Twist.

Photos by Charlie Kinross

It is all about a youngster trying to find his place in the world, so it is a coming-of-age story, of sorts.

Zachary Briddling is middling … decidedly average, but he wants to excel.

Magically, he is transported to a land of make believe, replete with giants, monsters and talking birds.

Adventures abound en route to his holy grail, a place where he can, indeed, be king of the jungle.

That place is called Grumptown and it is choc full of the most annoyed and annoying people.

The chamber opera, based on the delightful tale, was commissioned by Victorian Opera and first performed in 2015.

Sung (and spoken) in English, it is a wonderful introduction to the medium for little ones who come along with their parents and grandparents.

I could not have been more impressed than I was with Daniel Szesiong Todd, who played Zachary when I saw the production.

It is a role he alternates with Josh Morton-Galea.

Zachary – in this case, tenor Daniel – is asked to do much of the heavy lifting because, of course, the story is based around him.

He does so with aplomb, his rich and rounded voice bringing the eight-year-old’s imagination to life.

Overall, it is a strong cast that is dexterous and vocally adept.

I was particularly struck by soprano Lisette Bolton, whose representation of bird sounds was breathtaking. She is clearly one to watch.

In terms of standouts, it is also to go hard past James Billson’s towering performance – pun totally intended – as the giant. Complete with massive mitts, he rises to the occasion.

I must point out how rousing the chorus numbers are. Artistic director

Richard Mills wields the baton.

With an evocative set from Louisa Fitzgerald and creative costumes (the work of Jodi Hope), there is much to appreciate about The Grumpiest Boy in the World.

Bravo to director Elizabeth Hill-Cooper and Victorian Opera.


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