Boobooks’ suburban karaoke and the joys of 42nd Street

Boobooks’ suburban karaoke and the joys of 42nd Street

I was woken the other night by two Boobook owls having an animated conversation (and then singing a great disco hit of the 1970s) on the branch of a tree just outside my bedroom window.

Two Boobook Owls had an animated conversation outside Ian Warden's house.

Two Boobook Owls had an animated conversation outside Ian Warden's house.Credit:Rod Macleod

First owl: "I see that stupid saying 'Nothing good ever happens after midnight' is being trotted out again by commentators."

Second owl: "Yes, it's triggered by those news stories about a famous footballer being charged with offences after being out and about in Civic at 3am after a birthday party."

First owl. "I don’t understand it. Personally I think the reverse is true. Nothing really worthwhile, in romance or hunting, happens before midnight. My hoots of love, my equivalent of my Tinder profile, carry far further at night when there's no traffic noise. I love the night life. I've got to boogie. I want some action. I wanna live. Ak-shun I got so much to give. I want to give it. I want to get some too-oo-oooooo!”

Second owl, after first joining in the catchy chorus of the all-time great song, the theme song of all owls and bats everywhere: "Yes Owly, but we’re nocturnal, remember, and crepuscular too. That influences our point of view. Humans are diurnal (active during daylight) and so perhaps can be giddy and disoriented at night."


First owl: "What does 'crepuscular' mean?"

An agitated and sleepy columnist, opening his window: "Hey! You two! Do you know what time it is? Please keep your voices down, I'm trying to sleep. Great singing though. Ripper song. Didn’t you love the way they used it in Priscilla Queen of the Desert!"

The obliging raptors apologised and flew away on noiseless wings.

But I lay awake. It was not only because Alicia Bridges’ great 1978 dance song had set my ancient body disco-twitching. It was also because the second and wiser owl seemed to me to have said a thought-stoking thing. He was surely right that humans are overwhelmingly a diurnal (active by day) species.

When I follow media reports of energetic goings-on (usually outside throbbing nightspots) between midnight and dawn my ears always prick up with fascination. It is something (being wide-awake and frolicking at 3am) so alien to me that I am fascinated by stories of people who do it. I am always ensconced indoors by late evening. A man out after midnight is an oddity, like a polar bear in a tropical jungle, like a thinking grown up at a Young Liberals' cocktail party.

What is Canberra's CBD, what is my street, what is the world like at 3am? Are there werewolves? The night is another country. They do things differently there. Nothing truly human ever happens after midnight.

No wonder then that, afraid of being out late and running into werewolves and micturating footballers, I chose to go to a matinee performance of Free Rain Theatre’s production of 42nd Street. The season has just ended.

Free Rain Theatre’s production of 42nd Street was fantastic.

Free Rain Theatre’s production of 42nd Street was fantastic.Credit:Family Fotographics

Although I see an ignoramus has called me "Whiney Warden" in a letter to the editor in truth I am a rapturetonian (the opposite of the grumbletonians who dominate the Letters pages). Habitual readers of my columns will know that one of my occasional themes is that our dear federal capital metropolis becomes bigger and better, more stimulatingly Melburnian, all the time.

And so it comes to pass that I sing the praises of this lovely production of 42nd Street the great Harry Warren/Al Dubin Broadway musical.

The rapture with which it filled this rapturetonian’s heart was not only due to it being a musical that tells a rapturous story with rapturous song and dance. No, it was also the delight given by finding young and youngish Canberrans giving a show so full of effervescence, splendour, excellence and flair.

The costumes! The glamour! The scintillating orchestra! The twinkling rat-a-tats of the massed, tap-dancing feet! The long-legged dames doing the refreshingly sexist synchronised Busby Berkeley moves with their long legs! The twinkle-toed and lark-voiced star, Sophie Highmore, as Peggy Sawyer the showbiz-seeking young dancer!

It was the best musical production I have ever seen in my decades of haunting music theatre in the federal capital bailiwick. One can’t imagine 42nd Street being done better on the best stages of Melbourne and Sydney.

You will think from all this gushing that I must have had nephews and nieces in the show but in fact I didn’t know a single soul involved.

But my happy suspicion is that some of the excellence of this 42nd Street has to do with our now being a bigger and bigger city. Canberra now has a bigger cast of citizens from which to draw talent, zest and expertise galore. I bet there were onstage and backstage folk involved in 42nd Street who hail from new, far-flung suburbs with strange-sounding names, suburbs older Canberrans bogged-down in olde inner Canberra would struggle to find in their UBD street directories.

Enraptured and energised by this super show my love interest and I left our car in the car park of Queanbeyan’s swish Q Theatre and effortlessly tap-danced home to Garran.

Rapt congratulations to Free Rain Theatre and to today’s young, healthy, twinkle-toed federal capital city that gives the company such a stimulating creative habitat to live in.