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Review: Hayden Tee Bad Guy at The Dunstan Playhouse

Hayden Tee (Ngāti Kahungunu), best known for his award-winning portrayal of Javert in the Australian, New Zealand, Broadway, West End and Dubai productions of Les Misérables and for playing Ms Trunchbull in the West End production of Matilda the Musical, brings his out-of-the-pandemic, solo show to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival for one night only.

With an introduction stating he is just like Jessica Rabbit; ‘he’s not bad, he’s just drawn that way’ – this sentence carries the very important message that threads through the show’s songs and storytelling.

Bad Guy is an impressive musical plunge into the concept of villainy, as Tee shares his own personal journey in lifting the colonial cloak of shame and proudly embracing his own Takatāpui identity and celebration of his culture.

With an absolutely exquisite live symphonic accompaniment, Tee pulls and weaves, peeling back the layers of some of musical theatre’s most detestable characters to really examine what is good and what is bad.

Beginning with a sensational re-imagining of Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’, his rich and luscious sound reverberates through your soul, and he describes love and light as your inner saboteur.

A surprise but brilliant tango-style arrangement of Billy Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy’ follows before he hands out paraphernalia to his band from his ‘bag of bad’ – a pirate hat, sword, patch and flag – to signify ‘evil’ or ‘perceived badness’ – a perfect example of apophenia where we are taught to perceive meaningful connections between unrelated things.

The structure of fairy-tales is discussed – the hero, the villain, the struggle before he treated us to a thrilling and intense rendition of ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ from The Little Mermaid, with a distinct 60s beatnik vibe.

Tee manages to glide seamlessly through song and story in ‘Forbidden Fruit’ which leads him into discussing punishments through the ages and was a perfect segue into ‘The Smell of Rebellion’ from Matilda the Musical; another masterful arrangement by friend and musical director extraordinaire Nigel Ubrihien.

‘1776’ where he appeared as the pro-slavery Edward Rutledge – talks about perspective and how it is important when deciding what is good and what is bad. This led into a dramatic performance of ‘Molasses to Rum’.

Talking to us as old friends, Tee’s social discussions lead to the question; what is the opposite to good? Bad? Evil? No, apathy is. Social perspective.

A crowd favourite ‘Stars’ from Les Misérables was beautifully spotlit and poignant. Just him and his soaring voice.

Conversation turned to Hays coding where there were strict regulations on how queer characters were able to be portrayed in the early days of film-making.  Because of the Hay Code, positive portrayals of homosexual characters were barred, and the only characters in fiction that could be perceived as homosexuals had evil roles and were punished throughout the work.

Tee really posed social and political questions to the audience, and rightly so – it is his show, and this is cabaret.

Another incredible masterpiece of ‘Creep’ by Radiohead with the haunting bass and string sound, led by his remarkable band of piano, bass, drums, violin, double bass, and cello, it was simply astounding.

Tee became emotional talking about the first anti-LGBTQIA+ law by Henry VIII in 1533. He disclosed when he was 6 years old, he was triggered by conversations back in his homeland, where it was still illegal to be gay in NZ.

But Takatāpui is the Maori word for LGBTQIA+ and the fact that the word was around pre-colonisation meant that those communities existed, were welcomed, acknowledged, and were celebrated. We were then treated to the beautiful Island song ‘Language’ by Dave Dobbyn.

Doing away with the traditional act of encore, Tee sat by the piano and intimately and thoughtfully sang Simon Beck’s ‘The Human Heart’ where he implored us to consider life as neutral and always look at perspectives.

A beautiful afternoon of art and education.

4 stars


Lia Loves.


Lia Loves
Lia Loves
Theatre. Dance. Culture. Events. Follow her adventures as Adelaide's premier theatre buff, arts contributor, educator and ambassador!

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