Geelong superheroes and villains fly into festival

Ed Dolista, as The Hustler, with the rest of the Geelong cast of Groovyman.

By Luke Voogt

A cast of Geelong drama teachers and actors turned superheroes will fly into Melbourne International Comedy Festival for their brand new ‘mockbuster’ Groovyman next month.

“It’s a blockbuster but without the budget,” explained Highton’s Ed Dolista, who plays Groovyman’s arch-nemesis The Hustler in the “pun-tastic” spectacular.

“I always play the villain – I think it’s because they get all the cool costumes.

“Like Darth Vader – he looks pretty good compared to Luke Skywalker.”

Dolista describes the flamboyant polyester-loving Hustler as a cross between The Joker, Elton John, and Bewitched star and comedian Paul Lynde.

“He has a thing called the Discotron, which causes people to dance uncontrollably,” he said.

“That’s when I’m able to steal their jewellery and money. That’s his plan, to become the most powerful man in Funkytown.”

Only Groovyman, sidekick The Boy Funkster and ace reporter Bonita De GoGo can stop The Hustler and villainous comrades Polly Esther and the Piano Man from destroying Funkytown.

Reminiscent of comedy films Naked Gun and Flying High, the show reels off quips faster than a speeding bullet, according to Dolista.

“We pack in a lot of jokes in each page of script, it goes 100 miles a minute,” Dolista said.

The show features video projections, and hits by Gloria Gaynor, Earth, Wind and Fire, KC and the Sunshine Band, and Barry Manilow.

“With classic disco sung live, movie-quality costumes and cutting-edge special effects – for 1978 – Groovyman will have you believing a man can jive!” Dolista said.

Dolista channels his love of Marvel, the DC Universe and disco into the show, the latest of several by the group at Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

“I try to inject that little bit of Hollywood into our shows,” he said.

The group’s previous comedies include Robin Hood, the swashbuckling Dead Men Tell No Jokes and spy-themed spectaculars Live and Let Spy and You Only Laugh Twice.

“Luckily, they laughed much more than that,” Dolista said.

Dolista teaches drama in Werribee and has loved getting on stage since his childhood role in a Geelong production of The King and I – alongside Guy Pearce and Portia de Rossi.

“They weren’t famous at the time – she even wasn’t Portia de Rossi, she was Amanda Lee Rogers,” he said.

“If I had just gone left instead of right, who knows what would have happened.”

Over the years Dolista recruited a motley collection of drama teachers and professional actors for his shows including Ian Nash-Gilchrist, Jenn Stirk, Ian Rooney, Cassia Webster, Nick Addison, Alicia Miller and Scott Popovic.

“You remember these people who you thought, ‘they’ve really got something’.”

He remembered the heartbreak of having to cancel Groovyman just months out from the festival in 2020, but was thrilled to bring it to The Butterfly Club in Melbourne for seven shows beginning April 5.

“We rehearse in our garage, which is about the size of the Butterfly Club,” he said.

“Everything came flooding back during rehearsals and I think everyone is just looking forward to performing in front of an audience, no matter how large or small.”