Margaret Fulton “livened up the nation and taught them how to cook with a little inspiration and the Margaret Fulton book”. Words of the enjoyable lively musical, Margaret Fulton Queen of the Dessert, ring true to generations of Australian and English housewives. Her story portrayed by a cast of six and a keyboard player is a tale of fame and social struggle as a successful female in a conservative Australian society in the mid to late 20th century. It is not just a fun show, but a sociological reflection of gender issues and roles in Australia.

From the opening set and musical numbers we are led through the pre-Margaret Fulton traditional Anglo-Australian households’ weekly menu. We reflect on the jingoistic times of the America’s Cup win and the 1988 Bicentennial celebrations. Whilst it appears that Australia is celebrating, Manon Gunderson-Briggs as Margaret Fulton is not in a good mood as she faces losing her home and sings about the “living icon blues’. Fortunately for the musical, this mood doesn’t last too long. We are introduced to her bohemian days in Sydney after escaping from Glen Innes. She marries her boyfriend after he returns from the war, has a daughter, escapes from factory work, moves away from Sydney, and returns to the Rocks in Sydney. In the second half of the show we see her through a few more romantic attachments and her ascendency through television and publishing land using her canny Scottish background and top sales work approach.

The staging of this musical story is true to the periods, complete with brown and white checked linoleum kitchen floor and pastel coloured walls in Australia and psychedelic swirls on angled walls in London. The costume wardrobe is likewise within period.

Margaret Fulton opened up Anglo-Australian kitchens to European and Asian flavours. She “changed the language -… a sandwich became a baguette”. She was almost derailed by a number of romantic attachments with men who were “Decorative, Elegant and Useless” but persevered. In conservative Australia hers was “a road that’s hard to tread” as summarised in the full ensemble finale, complete with fluttering checked tea towels!

Whilst chronological biographies can become tedious, the colour, music, acting, and richness of her life ensured that this did not happen here. The choreography kept the show bopping along and the audience readily joined in the last number. It appeared that Ruth Fingret, Director who is also an accomplished writer, had a bright ensemble to direct. They appeared cohesive, though at times some appeared a little over enthusiastic ‘pulling focus’ from the lead. Brett O’Neill managed to transition from his over-the-top ‘farcical’ characters into the dying Trevor. Rebecca Spicer as Bea packed a punch with her powerful vocals and her bright optimistic ‘lady of the night’ and cleaner roles. The constant referral to Margaret’s deceased mother appeared to occasionally detract from the continuity of the plot. However in her role of Margaret’s mother, Clare McCallum’s stage presence and good vocals reassured us of the importance of this strong Scottish character. Manon Gunderson-Briggs was the central pivot for the musical and held her own through the 90 minutes to an audience which included family members and work colleagues of the icon who is Margaret Fulton.

The Bondi Theatre Company is producing this Sydney premiere season at the Bondi Pavilion Theatre. The musical was first produced by Theatreworks in 2012. The musical was based on the book ‘I sang for my supper’ by Margaret Fulton with music by Yuri Worontschak.

Margaret Fulton turned 94 in the week before this season of the musical opened at the Bondi Pavilion, and she and members of her family and ex-colleagues are expected among the audiences. The season of this 90 minute musical runs until October 27th at Bondi Pavilion Theatre with matinee and evening performances. Special guests plus a Q&A and afternoon tea are to be at the Wednesday 17th October 11am show. Babies are welcome at the 11am show on Wednesday 24th October.

For more about Margaret Fulton Queen of the Dessert, visit {Website:10}