Theatre Review: Locked Upside Down…And Inside Out!, Or Pandemic Playfulness Progression

June 26, 2022


Locked Upside Down…And Inside Out! / Directed by Alan Swerdlow / Theatre On The Square, Sandton, Johannesburg


Following a revue-style show conceptualised and performed during Covid comes a revue-style show performed as the pandemic – please God – begins to fade. Locked Upside Down…And Inside Out! is not so much a sequel to its predecessor Locked Upside Down as it is an update – both to reflect the changing nature of our shared experience (in particular that of moms forced to become even better multi-taskers even as they struggle with home-bound isolation) and to add some new laughs and musical arrangements to the mix.

Some of it does feel rather dated, but happily, in context, that soon starts to feel like a positive – if what was being struggled with at the height of the pandemic is now old hat to the point of no longer being relevant, we’re collectively in a better place. Many of the best elements of the original show have been retained – the pathos of Sharon Spiegel-Wagner recording a “what to do when I’m gone” video for her husband and the duet (Sara Bareilles’ peerless You Matter To Me) Spiegel-Wagner and Lorri Strauss sing when they hear about friends lost to Covid, and the delightful, mischievous comedy of Spiegel-Wagner going shopping for that most sensual of staples, um, bread.

Elizabeth Lemmer joins as a new cast member, spending most of her time at the piano accompanying Spiegel-Wagner and Strauss as best friends sharing both tribulations and triumphs via Zoom and telephone and sympathetic duet partners (one of the highlights is a gorgeous mash-up of Carole King’s classic You’ve Got A Friend and A Million Dreams from the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman) when they’re not handling solos. Lemmer, when she gets a solo, displays a lovely vibrato on the high end of her range.

Spiegel-Wagner has an unfailingly sure comedy touch involving everything from cheeky asides to the audience to supermarket orgasms, all of which is balanced by Strauss’ earnest performance style and the sense of her character teetering on the edge.

Ultimately, this second instalment is as frothy and feelgood as the first chapter, a tonic for the stress caused by the last couple of years while still acknowledging the profundity of what occurred.