Robert Brown re-imagining is all about the music
By Myron My
More and more you hear people saying, “It’s a small world”. Thanks to modern living, our lives are becoming intertwined in ever-more varied and surprising ways. In The Last Five Queers, book by Adam Noviello & Madi Lee and music by Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown, we meet five individuals who are all connected with each other in some way. In this song-cycle cabaret, their relationships are all pushed to the forefront as they tackle the high and lows of being in love with someone and trusting another enough to give yourself over to them.
There were some incredibly strong musical performances in the show. Keagan Vaskess as the woman in love with her best friend was exceptional with her songs. What is even more impressive is the confidence and emotion on display, considering she was only brought in five days ago after the original performer became unwell. The scenes between gay couple, Henry Brett and Jack O’Riley were just as accomplished however. The belting out of memorable numbers ensured their duets and solos were by far the highlights of the show. Rounding out the cast were Tim Carney and Lee who, despite their strong effort, were unable to affect me as much as Vaskess, Brett and O’Riley did. Their projection was not as successful, and for me their vocal range didn’t reach the breadth of the other three
Playing his own arrangements of Brown’s music was musical director Barnaby Reiter. I’ve seen Reiter perform in a number of cabaret shows over the years and it’s always a pleasant surprise when he appears on stage. He really is one of Melbourne’s great musical talents, playing with finesse and skill and really creating moments on stage for not only the audience to experience, but also for the performers to occupy.
While the cast shone in their singing, the acting is where some cracks surfaced. There were several awkward vignettes between songs, due to dialogue that sounded trite and acting that felt unnatural. There was not much authenticity in the portrayals and it felt everyone was just going through the motions: there was the lack of intensity from a spontaneous kiss, the lack of chemistry between loving couples and the lack of familiarity between siblings and friends.
I could have happily enjoyed Vaskess, Brett and O’Riley singing all night, and listened to Reiter play the piano. However, I was there to see The Last Five Queers, and as a whole, the show required some fine-tuning. The writing needed to be more genuine and organic and the acting side of this cabaret needed stronger direction. It’s still an enjoyable show but I will remember The Last Five Queers as more of a quick fling than a long-lasting relationship.
Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: Until 9 August | Tue-Sat 8:30pm, Sunday 8:00pm
Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc
Bookings: The Butterfly Club