SAMMY J: MAJOR PARTY @ Regal Theatre gets 9.5/10

Sammy J’s Major Party @ Regal Theatre
Saturday, July 13, 2019


Sammy J, supported by co-writer James Pender, put together an absolute masterclass on characterisation and live performance last Saturday at the Regal. His first nationwide comedy tour outside of festivals, Major Party combined all of Sammy J’s satirical characters made popular through the ABC, as well as some of his favourite musical comedy numbers, in a tight, well-honed show with seamless character transitions, plenty of audience interaction, and an energy that never dipped for the entire 70 minutes of heartfelt hilarity.

A playful yet minimal set greeted the audience as they took their seats, with a beautiful piano downstage right and tall balloon trees at the back of the stage that would light up in a rainbow of colours throughout the show to add impact during skits as well as delivering on that Major Party vibe.

Right from the beginning, Sammy J’s stage presence was phenomenal as he kicked things off with no supporting acts, giving us a taste of what was to come by letting us know he loves live performance where he doesn’t have to contend with the ABC lawyers and their often arbitrary censorship. It was just 70 minutes of Sammy J in all his glory, occasionally joined on stage by long-time collaborator Pender, which meant that Sammy J’s boundless energy dictated the pace of the evening to great effect, entering at 100km/h and staying there throughout, while being engaging enough to keep the entire audience right there with him as he transitioned from one character to the next with awe-inspiring deftness.

After introducing the show with The Nerd Song, Sammy transitioned to the internet-famous Yoga Instructor by ripping off his suit, spiking up his hair and getting straight into his first pose. Anyone who’s seen Brexit Yoga (and there are at least six million people who have) knows the tongue-in-cheek Yoga Instructor holds nothing back, with no one on the political spectrum safe from his smug scorn. It became immediately clear that audience interaction is just about compulsory in this show, with Sammy J as the Yoga Instructor flinging his “birdlike” body four rows into the audience to apprehend a lady that was less than enthusiastic about joining in on the yoga lesson. After she was named and shamed to the entire auditorium not a single person within sight refrained from participating. This continued with Royal Commission as Sammy J pulled an audience member out of the front row onto the stage in front of a mic, before getting the hapless but clearly very game guy to remove his shirt on stage!

Government Coach made an appearance as an interviewee talking about his book launch, hilariously flippant about some pretty serious issues and all the while fielding calls and texts from ‘ScoMo’ (Scott Morrison) seeking advice. It has to be mentioned what a wonderful job Pender did supporting Sammy J, from bouncing off him with characters such as his long lost, true blue Aussie cousin who doesn’t quite ‘get’ the satire but loves throwing beachballs into the audience, to being the moustached interviewer of Government Coach, Buster J’s musical accompaniment for Goodbye, Queensland, and even performing a remake of the film Titanic‘s famous theme song, Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On with the audience member who’d been thrown shirtlessly into the deep end of Major Party. When he wasn’t bouncing off Sammy J’s performance, he was entertaining the audience during the very short breaks between skits when Sammy was offstage getting into character for the next one. Sammy J and Pender make an incredible duo, which made for a show that flowed seamlessly from one skit into the next with no downtime whatsoever.

Arguably Sammy J’s most popular bit, Playground Politics delighted the crowd, three of which were recruited to get involved (including the chap who had bravely taken his top off earlier), as the very serious topic of renewable energy was satirised with hilarious effect. Each skit complemented the next with every single one honed to perfection, and it was really hard to pick a favourite when each was so well developed and convincingly performed.

While each character was perfectly defined, with Sammy J’s proficiency at character creation at such a level that even without the costumes there would be no doubt as to which character he was inhabiting due to the fine nuances of his voice and facial expressions, a highlight of the show was undoubtedly all of the musical numbers. As he sat or sometimes stood and danced by his piano, performing with gusto, it was clear that when engaged in musical comedy is when Sammy J is in his element. From Pink Clouds to Aussie, Aussie, Aussie (Oi, Oi, Oi), his songs are hilarious while poignant and occasionally undeniably sad, and his album Symphony in J Minor would be well worth a listen.

With audience interaction, hilarious skits, an effortlessly skilful transition between characters, and engaging, brilliant musical numbers, Sammy J’s Major Party had it all. An absolutely brilliant show that will no doubt (and hopefully) lead to more nationwide comedy tours outside of festivals after such an incredible debut.