Wicked star braves the cabaret stage
By Bradley Storer
Introduced by her accompanist David Young, Jemma Rix, the recently-announced Elphaba for the new Australian production of Wicked, took to the stage of The Butterfly Club with a shy but toothy grin. Here she launched into a wonderful original song investigating the meaning behind the title of the show and ending in a medley of countless tunes shouted out on the spot by Young.
A misstep was following this rollicking song with the Eagles’ sombre ‘Hotel California’, an odd choice which drained the energy she’d built up in her first tune. For the first part of the evening Rix was clearly nervous and had trouble maintaining eye contact with her audience – not such a big problem for musical theatre but difficult for the intimacy of cabaret. She asked the audience’s forgiveness for her understandable nerves in her first outing as a cabaret performer.
After seeming a little unsure of herself through the first few pop songs on the set list, resorting to a few stock pop-singer stage moves at some points, one could almost feel her give an internal sigh of relief when she reached the first show tunes of the night – a winning combination of Stephen Schwartz’s ‘Beautiful City’ and Sondheim’s ‘Another Hundred People’, with Schwartz’s idealistic vision of a ‘city of men’ bringing out a surprising beauty in Sondheim’s bleak landscape of urban alienation.
The first moment where it felt Rix truly connected with her audience was with the song ‘With You’ from the musical Ghost – here her inhibitions melted away and I felt transported as Rix brought us into the heartbreaking grief of losing a loved one, and from here on out she was on solid ground. Once her nerves were gone, Rix revealed herself as a charming and engaging performer, along with her voice of startling power and floating delicacy.
The later half of the evening brought some surprising and rewarding choices in repertoire. Rix informed us of her uproarious idea of a Romeo and Juliet juke-box musical based around the music of Rihanna (the only thing lacking were some daggy dance moves!). Her banter about the plight faced by youth today in an environment pervaded by cyber-bullying led into a brilliant fusion of ‘Quiet’ from Tim Minchin’s Matilda with David Guetta’s ‘Titanium’ that held the entire audience spell-bound.
A promising first show from an established music-theatre performer which assures us of great things for her cabaret future!
Venue: The Butterfly Club, 256 Collins St (enter off 5 Carson Place), Melbourne City
Dates & Times: 23rd, 24th, 28th at 8pm, 25th, 26th, 27th at 9pm.
Tickets: Full $28, Concession $25, Group $23, Tightarse Tuesday $20.
Bookings: www.thebutterflyclub.com , 9663 8107 or at the door.