Performance review: MixTape, MetroArts

Press pause on the 90s revival, Outside the Jukebox are rewinding us back to the 80s.

Outside The Jukebox are a freshly formed quartet that brought Brisbane together for a night of nostalgia, but giving it a modern twist.

Using a very loose storyline of finding a box of old 80s stuff and wondering who the person was who owned these items, they sifted through the box to uncover a bunch of mixtapes with little notes on them. The four performers put the tapes in an old cassette player, and sang the tunes while trying to work out who the person could be and if they had been gifted these tapes by a friend or significant other.

What made a mixtape so special was the effort of putting it together. Waiting for the radio to play your favourite track, pausing when ads came on, then quickly unpausing to record the next track. It was a disaster if you accidently recorded over another song. With only 30 minutes on both sides it had to be a highly selective compilation.

Outside The Jukebox, however, seemed to throw every 80s song they know into this show, with 72 songs in the mix. Some were performed as clever fast forward suites, where five or six songs were sung in little snippets as they fast forwarded the tape. Some were impressive medleys where two to four songs were entwined in each other, like a modern DJ mash-up changing the tempo and key where necessary.

The show was slow to start, but it certainly took off in the second half. Despite only forming last November, the quartet of Hannah Grondin, Marcia Penman, Hayden Rodgers and Oliver Samson radiated warmth and familiarity with each other on stage, cheering each other on as if they’d been singing together for decades. The emotional arrangements of ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ by Cyndi Lauper and Robert Hazard as well as ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ by Wham! were a welcome change from the stuck-in-your-head pop. Grondin was a standout with her effortless soulful sound, especially on Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’.

While all performers could hit the high notes, the fill-in tongue-in-cheek comedy was a little cringe worthy.

A mash-up of ‘Edge Of Seventeen’ by Stevie Nicks and ‘Eye of the Tiger’ by Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik as well as ‘Material Girl’ by Peter Brown and Robert Rans and ‘Uptown Girl’ by Billy Joel were highlights; however, the sheer amount of these mash-up moments made the crescendo of the finale medleys fall flat.

Read: Performance review: The Honouring, Arts House

With the audience dancing and singing along, Outside The Jukebox know what people want. Highlighting the music, with a gentle nod to the outrageous outfits of the 80s, MIXTAPE was a fun night out for those who wanted to take a trip down memory lane.

The concept is fresh just like them and if they continue performing together while improving their stage banter and set list, we may see Outside the Jukebox performing other musical decades for decades to come.

MIXTAPE: Rewind To The 80s
Presented by Outside The Jukebox
Metro Arts, New Benner Theatre, Brisbane
Creator and performiomer: Hannah Grondin
Musical director, creator, performer: Marcia Penman
Producer, creator, performer: Hayden Rodgers
Associate producer, creator, performer: Oliver Samson
Music associate: Tom Collins
Sound Engineer: Ben Murray
Sound operator: Tobi Trstenjak
Additional arrangements: Alex Van den Broek

MIXTAPE was performed from 9-11 March 2023.

Lisette Drew is a writer, theatre maker and youth literature advocate, who has worked nationally and overseas on over 50 theatrical productions. Her play, Breakwater, was shortlisted for two playwriting awards and her novel The Cloud Factory was longlisted for The Hawkeye Prize. In 2022 she received a Kill Your Darlings Mentorship and was a City of Melbourne Writer-in-Residence. Lisette shares her love for stories and storytelling running writing and theatre workshops for children.