“The premise is about being essentially too fat to be cast in mainstream musicals,” Marsden says, offering a succinct summary of Fat Musicals: A Body of Work.
Both a love letter to musical theatre and a satirical look at the issues surrounding body image, the show – playing at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival this weekend – is likely to give audience members, reviewers and directors alike something to think about.
In Marsden and Wood’s trademark style, however, the message is delivered with such a hefty dose of wit, sass and chutzpah that there will also be plenty to laugh at.
Marsden says the loose storyline centres around two women – “who are both us and kind of caricatures of us” – who try to write their own perfect musical because they are considered too fat to be cast in mainstream productions.
“In the process of that they sing songs from musicals but satirise and play with those songs and continually get distracted by talking about body image and what it means to be a fat person on stage and a fat person in the entertainment industry in Australia.
“… we talk about what we love and what’s problematic; we talk about casting in the industry, but we do that while being very slapstick, very silly and having a lot of fun with lots of ridiculous choreography and lyric re-writes of well-known songs and big harmonies.”
Audiences members can expect to hear fragments of songs from famous musicals such as Chicago, Calamity Jane, Wicked, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and West Side Story – but not as they’ve heard them before.
“We’ve also got a big medley of the creepiest love songs from musicals – everything from Phantom to Little Shop of Horrors to Into the Woods,” Marsden says.
The idea for Fat Musicals was inspired by the fact that reviewers and others have so often felt compelled to comment on Marsden and Wood’s body size, despite it being irrelevant to their performance.
“People come up with really creative ways of saying it, like ‘physically fulsome’, which doesn’t really mean anything, or ‘the singers have voices as big as their ample bosoms’.”
Fat Musicals made a small-scale debut in Sydney in February, and Marsden and Wood are hoping that it will follow a similar pattern to their highly successful theatrical cabaret show Mother’s Ruin, an hilarious exploration of the history of gin through story and song.
Mother’s Ruin also began life at a small venue in Sydney before having its official premiere at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, and they’ve now been touring it for several years – including three tours of the United Kingdom.
Audiences at this year’s Cabaret Festival will get a taste of the juniper-fuelled fun when the duo take up residence at The 11 O’Clock Number late-night club at The Famous Spiegeltent from next Thursday to Saturday with Hot Gin Punch, which Marsden says features elements of Mother’s Ruin but in variety-show format.
“Less of the talking, more of the singing, more of the mayhem.”
Fat Musicals: A Body of Work is playing at The Blue Room, Adelaide Festival Centre, at 3.30pm tomorrow (Saturday) and 6pm on Sunday, and you can catch Hot Gin Punch in The Famous Spiegeltent from June 20-22. See all InDaily’s Cabaret Festival stories and reviews here.