State Highway 48
Napier Municipal Theatre
Reviewed by Victoria White
From its opening song, State Highway 48 takes its audience on an emotional journey through love, tears, and depression - told through a family struggling to keep things together.
After two seasons of intense development, the musical has left its home base of Hamilton for a tour of the North Island.
Napier audiences were privileged the first performance of the tour, held at the Municipal Theatre on Wednesday night.
They followed Dave, Shane Cortese, and his wife Sharon, Delia Hannah, through a turbulent period as the couple try to navigate middle age, and the changes which take place in their family, workplace, and friendships.
With a mixture of upbeat tunes and slow ballads, the 26 song musical never gives up on an unrelenting pace, with a strong ensemble cast delivering performances with fervour.
Claps greeted Cortese - a three-time Art Deco ambassador - as he walked on stage.
Through "a toast to middle age", Dave and Sharon reflect a couple bored with the daily grind, questioning their love for each other, but bound by responsibility to their two children.
Although their children Emma, played by Chelsea Kelly, and Sam, played by Paris Eyeington, are consumed by their own worries, they are very aware of the tension between their parents.
Before the first song has ended, the black dog of depression begins haunting Dave.
Although the minimalist set is transformed through clever use of props, taking the audience from the family bathroom, to Dave's office, the Black Dog is a constant presence as Dave struggles through daily life.
No matter whether he is drinking with his colleagues after a hard day's work, embracing his wife, or waking up in the morning- the personification of depression, played by James Foster, reminds Dave that he will never be free.
Things get worse when a restructure at work leaves Dave and his team redundant, and things are pushed to a breaking point between him and Sharon.
Tears were shed by members of the audience as the end of the first half left the family's future looking very uncertain.
During the second half the two question what they're doing as they try and move forward with their respective lives - Dave fitting out his bachelor pad, and Sharon debating whether to give dating a go.
Stuck in the middle, their children express the concern through the moving "whose gonna make my lunch".
After suffering suicidal thoughts Dave finally reaches out for help, and although the musical leaves his future with Sharon uncertain - the audience left the theatre with hope they could reunite.
Written by Chris Williams, and directed by Nick Wilkinson, the musical is able to balance out the darker moments with plenty of laughs, creating not only an entertaining musical, but an enlightening one.