Review: Dina! The Musical

By Emily O’Mullane

Dina! The Musical is the newest creation of and who previously worked together on The Single Lady which won best musical by the Derek Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2022. This time Shaw has taken on the role of director of the (almost) one-woman show which centres on the character of Dina, inspired by Trina Vega in the hit TV show Victorious, as she battles to remain a part of her performing arts school after being asked to re-audition.

One of the stand-out features of the production is the original soundtrack. Being the first-ever musical in Durham Drama Festival is not an easy feat and Dina! Has proven that it is more than possible to create a student-written show with incredible lyrics and melody. The songs are witty and in line with the self-obsessed character of Dina who sings about being a star at various points in the show with each variation reflecting the character’s mood. The only aspect that lets down the musical writing of Dina! is that at times the reprisals feel a little bit repetitive but this is made up for by the other aspects of the production.

The songs are witty and in line with the self-obsessed character of Dina who sings about being a star at various points in the show with each variation reflecting the character’s mood

Another highlight is the casting of all the characters. embodies the role of Dina perfectly and she masters the original character whilst still making it feel like her own, unique portrayal. The high quality of James’ acting is consistent throughout and some of the best moments are when she engages with the audience directly which brings a charming quality to the character as well as demonstrating her brilliant comedic timing. A key part of the plot is that Dina lacks singing ability and James and the directing team do a very good job of balancing this aspect of the character with other moments where James’ voice shines. This combination creates an entertaining performance rather than one that is difficult to sit through.

Although Dina definitely wishes that it were a one-woman show, the supporting cast contributes massively to the energy of the piece. Drake plays the role of Tom Bur (Pi Anist) who is Dina’s pianist and who must be commended for the deliverance of his lines, whilst simultaneously playing much of the backing track live on a grand piano. also nails the character of the record producer and his time on stage is notable despite having lines that are few and far between.  

The witty, self-aware elements of the storyline come through due to the production’s use of sound and lighting. For example, some of the transitions in the show feel blocky but this is made up for by humour that makes it seem like a purposeful choice. Although at a couple of points the mic pack fell off James, this contributed to the clumsy character of Dina and was dealt with extremely well by both the tech team and James herself. The use of multimedia elements such as recorded videos is cleverly woven into the plot of the musical to create variety and to stop the production from stagnating.

A key part of the plot is that Dina lacks singing ability and James and the directing team do a very good job of balancing this aspect of the character with other moments where James’ voice shines

The staging, props and costumes are simple but done well. Dina shines on stage in her layered pink and silver top and the costume creates a clear nostalgia for the early 2010s. The props, which are used sparingly make references to Victorious such as the use of the pear for a phone and the fish fingers. Although the plot is understandable without having watched the original TV show, without the context behind jokes and dialogue, the show loses some of its charm and is catered to those who grew up during the 2010s. James makes the most of the simple staging with her flamboyant dancing and command of the stage but at times I wish there had been more extravagance in the deployment of staging, props or extra characters to make the show even bigger just as Dina would have wanted.

Overall, the show is as entertaining as it is due to its self-awareness and tongue-in-cheek humour. As described in the programme, there is not a ‘single moral message or deeper meaning in sight’ and the show lives up to this without limiting the creative display of student talent through its inventive use of music and production.

Image credit: Tone Deaf Theatre Company

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.