“This musical is about Her”, says “The Hills Heist’s” writer Xavier Hazard in his interview with Pelican. He isn’t lying. In more ways than one this play focuses on women, their experiences and femininity in all its forms. The show opens with, and follows main character Helen Bowen, a disgraced cop drawn into a heist in attempt to find absolution for past wrongs, looking to tell her story to former colleague Stewart Gilbert. Then there’s Yvonne van der Groen, matriarch of a local crime family, abandoned by that family when she was incarcerated 20 years earlier, now vindicated and freshly released. Yvonne’s rival-in-crime Nora Morgan too, whose son Theodore went down for crimes Nora herself was guilty of. Now Nora is making an attempt to help the son she let take the fall. And then, there’s “Her”. Hugo Monroe, a drag queen and Theodore Morgan’s lover trying their best to find any way to reunite with their imprisoned beau. The motivations of all these characters drive “The Hills Heist”. The story is complicated and these motivations muddy, but this is intentional. The interactions of all these characters are well-crafted in a way that tells a ridiculous but engaging story. Hazard and director Alex Crouch have done a great job in creating a show that steeps itself in the campest of Broadway musicals, throws in a bit of ‘60s Rat Pack heist cadence and intrigue, and then ties itself up nicely with a bit of inspiration from “Blue Heelers” style Australian cop shows. On top of all this lies an adornment of amazing choreography, put together by Katherine Hooker and dick jokes.
The cast of ‘The Hills Heist’ have also done an amazing job from the leads to the supporting ensemble. The supporting cast in the number “Dirty Laundry” perform some hilarious physical comedy and Molly Holohan and Julia Schwab both do an excellent job as Nora Morgan and Yvonne van der Groen respectively. Holohan carries the ocker humour of her character well and Schwab enthrallingly leads multiple musical numbers throughout the show with ease. The two leads, Isobel Ferguson (as Helen Bowen) and Bayley Horne (as Sergeant Stewart Gilbert), both in their first full lead roles, are wonderful and Horne’s experience on stage shines through in all his scenes. A special mention should be given to Faisal Hamza as Constable Richard “Dick” Fisher (you can see where this is going…), who gives a great comedic performance. The crowning performative glory of “The Hills Heist”, however, has to be Matthew Nixon as Hugo Monroe/“Her”. Nixon gives an absolutely explosive musical performance in his first eponymous number, very well supported by the ensemble, and acts out his role with convincing skill.
The staging is simple and minimal. Holohan doubled as the set designer and adds more of an evocative touch rather than a full set. This is complimented well by the lighting which is an instrumental part of the storytelling process in “The Hills Heist”.
In the end though, it’s the story, which Hazard says he intended to be “a narrative that’s just silly’ that really gives “The Hills Heist” its spirit. Hazard and Crouch have put on a solid, enjoyable musical. Just be sure to follow along, or you might end up on the wrong side of the Heist.
Rating: ★★★★ out of 5
Words by Lachlan Serventy