Musical review: Share House: The Musical, Arts Centre Melbourne

The trials and tribulations of house sharing in your 30s come under the microscope in this sign of the times musical that is fun and funny.
Three white women in their 30s sit on a brown leather couch. On the left is a mousy woman reading a book, on the right a smiley one crocheting a blanket and in the middle a woman in a blue jumper looking troubled and staring at the camera. Share House: The Musical.

A musical about living in a share house while you’re in your 30s is a good reflection of the age in which we are living, where the dearth of affordable real estate is never far from the news, so this sweet little concoction couldn’t have come at a better time.

Lucy (Jude Perl) and Jane (Isabelle Davis) were childhood besties and are now living together in a typical ramshackle abode that anyone who’s ever experienced being young and impoverished in a share house will recognise: the stains and leaks everywhere, lumpy couch, milk crates as furniture and rotating chore wheel. Their relationship is strained and curdled with the years passed and they rely on a rather toxic co-dependency, with Jane the dominant and bossy one in the pair. She’s also highly anxious and misanthropic, though lovingly protective of Lucy as friends are wont to be.

Into the fold comes Alice (Anita Mei La Terra), a happy clappy optimist who disrupts the household dynamic. She’s the type of person who finds satisfaction cleaning the toilet bowl and greets every mishap as a learning experience. Of course, Jane is suspicious of this “fake” interloper. Could effervescent Alice really be without malice? Meanwhile, given a chance to be influenced by someone other than her overbearing best friend, Lucy perks up in Alice’s presence, like a flower that’s just been watered instead of constantly harangued and placed in a darkly lit corner.

Will the three reconcile their differences to sign on another yearly lease living together?

While this drama is being played out, a robust and suitably youthful 15-piece band is also on stage in the background providing the soundtrack – the music smoothly integrated into the performance.

There are flashbacks also, to Lucy and Jane’s teenaged selves (played by Jasmien Tuvey and Amie Zwag), situated at a particularly important moment in a school dance when they were poised to perform. What happened at this pivotal point in the girls’ formative years would later inform the personalities of their adult lives.

Share House: The Musical explores long-term friendships, the balm of different perspectives, the long-tail effects of childhood trauma and the realisation of the need for compromise in all situations.

All the characters are played with charm and heart, big voices and engaging performances. Luckily for a musical, the songs are cute and catchy, and the dancing is adorkable.

Read: Performance review: Parrwang Lifts the Sky, Malthouse Theatre

Yes, there are some big name players out there in musical land currently in Melbourne like Wicked and Chicago that will bedazzle you with their visual pyrotechnics and fancy pants costuming, but this more modest production, with its minimalist set, is well worth a look. It may be small in size but it’s perfectly formed.

Share House: The Musical
Arts Centre Melbourne

Writers: Jude Perl, Brendan Tsui and Desiree Munro
Songwriting: Jude Perl and Brendan Tsui
Director: Desiree Munro
Musical Direction/Arrangements: Brendan Tsui

Choreography: Eden Read
Additional Arrangements: Michael Mills
Lighting Design: Matthew Fabris
Cast: Jude Perl, Isabelle Davis, Anita Mei La Terra, Jasmine Tuvey, Amie Zwag

Tickets: $20-$59

Share House: The Musical will be performed until 19 May 2024.

Thuy On is the Reviews and Literary Editor of ArtsHub and an arts journalist, critic and poet who’s written for a range of publications including The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Sydney Review of Books, The Australian, The Age/SMH and Australian Book Review. She was the books editor of The Big issue for 8 years. Her debut, a collection of poetry called Turbulence, came out in 2020 and was released by University of Western Australia Publishing (UWAP). Her second collection, Decadence, was published in July 2022, also by UWAP. Her third book, Essence, will be published in 2025. Twitter: @thuy_on Instagram: poemsbythuy