Category: Cabaret Review

REVIEW: Dash Kruck’s I MIGHT TAKE MY SHIRT OFF

Exceedingly good cabaret

By Myron My

Every now and again, there is a show that is so clever, so witty, so painful, so funny, so daring and so much more than you thought you were getting into. Dash Kruck‘s cabaret show I Might Take My Shirt Off is a prime example of this.

I Might Take My Shirt Off

Kruck plays Lionel, a man who is struggling to accept that the love of his life has left him. To be perfectly honest, he’s a heartbroken mess, and with the stern advice of his frightening German therapist who orders him to go out and express himself, Lionel ends up performing in his very own cabaret performance.

With his “how to cabaret” list in his trouser pocket, Lionel systematically goes through his checklist that will guarantee him a successful show. Included on this list is taking his shirt off, having booze and being sexy. For the latter, he performs a hilariously brilliant and most memorable song about being – for want of a better word – “intimate” with a partner.

Kruck portrays the nervous and emotionally battered Lionel with honesty and his retelling of happier times with his ex are difficult to listen to. Accompanied by a three-piece band on keys, drums and double bass, the original songs written by Kruck and Chris Perren are well paired in guiding Lionel to overcome his loneliness and sadness of a broken heart.

Lionel may be passable in the spotlight but Kruck is an amazing talent on stage. His comedic timing and the tightness of the show’s delivery is a standout. Kruck engages with the audience on many levels as he heads into the crowd to ad-lib songs or just to say hi, so even when things get quite sexual and explicit, the relationship he has built with us lets him get away with it. Of course, his charisma and cheekiness don’t hurt either.

Kruck has a strong voice that adapts to the different tones and styles of song covered throughout the show. If only there had been an encore to the ‘unplanned’ encore because I would have happily sat and listened to Kruck’s voice for much longer than 60 minutes.

I Might Take My Shirt Off is a highly recommended cabaret about freeing oneself from the past and looking hopefully to the future. And also about killing mythical beasts. But more to do with the former.

I Might Take My Shirt Off is being performed as part of the 2015 Melbourne Cabaret Festival

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place (off Lt Collins St), Melbourne CBD
Season: Until 28 June | Thur-Sat 9:00pm, Sunday 8:00pm
Tickets: $38 Full | $34 Conc
Bookings: The Butterfly Club

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REVIEW: Lynn-Ruth Miller is NOT DEAD YET

Four-score years with a vibrant performer
By Myron My
Lynn-Ruth Miller has lived a long time. She may have even almost died a few times, but in her cabaret show Not Dead Yet, she lets it be known that even at 81, she’s nowhere near done yet, not by a long shot. With a mixture of story telling, music and songs, Miller takes us on a journey on what it means to not only live, but to be alive.
Not Dead Yet

Beginning as a toddler, where even the temptation of tapioca pudding was not enough for her to drink her milk, which she still hates, Miller manages to fill us in on eight decades worth of stories in just sixty minutes. It’s a carefully crafted show where plenty of thought has been put in to how these tales will be told. Miller’s tenuous relationship with her mother is summed up with a few powerful words, the beginning (and end) of relationships is covered in just a minute but yet we feel like we know every detail of these events.There is much nostalgia in Miller’s show with bittersweet memories of past loves and family members. At one point, Miller is almost overcome with emotion and whether or not this was part of the act is hard to say. As Miller is talking about these moments, it feels like we are no longer in the room and she is literally reliving these broken-hearted moments, the swimming lessons, her 16th birthday and so on. They say you can tell a lot about a person by their eyes, and Miller’s shine when talking about all these events and in return, we are captivated by everything she has to say because she is talking from the heart.

While the show is low on musical numbers, they are still engaging pieces, which provide more insight into Miller’s varied life. Her voice is not as strong as it undoubtedly was years earlier but she can still carry a tune, and hell, she’s still a better singer than most of us anyway.

As Miller states in Not Dead Yet, this show is not a sob story but about a series of events that for better or worse, have got her to where she is now. Her life is going to keep getting better and more enjoyable every day until she dies but there is still a lot of life left in her and that’s a valuable lesson we can all take home.

Not Dead Yet is being performed as part of the 2015 Melbourne Cabaret Festival

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place (off Lt Collins St), Melbourne CBD
Season: Until 28 June | Thur-Sat 7:00pm, Sunday 6:00pm
Tickets: $38 Full | $34 Conc
Bookings: The Butterfly Club

REVIEW: Alexandra Keddie in I SEE ME; AND MERYL STREEP

Ambition, audacity and well-crafted comedy

By Myron My

Everyone has had an actor, singer, athlete or celebrity of some sort that they idolised and dreamed of becoming. As people get older they generally grow out of the fantasy, but not 17-year old Alexandra Keddie. She maintains she wants to be Hollywood actor, Meryl Streep – or at least be just like her. Welcome to her new cabaret I See Me; and Meryl Streep.

I See Me; and Meryl Streep

The stage immediately reminded me of when I was a teenager (and my own bedroom was adorned with posters, and memorabilia from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). On display, Keddie appears to have copies of every single film Streep has ever made, photos and posters, cushions and clothing with her face printed on them, and a signed framed image of her too. The finishing touch is the “Mountain to Meryl” chart, where she has a picture of Meryl’s face at the top of a mountain and her own at the bottom. Each time Keddie’s character perfects a new skill or accent in her cabaret quest, she climbs up the mountain, inching closer to her idol.

At one point in her tale, Keddie takes us through “The Many Voices of Meryl” and this is by far the highlight of the show. She is not only performing in a complex variety of accents, but she is performing them as Streep would, and it is truly uncanny how much she sounds like the three-time Oscar winner. When she reenacts her Margaret Thatcher and Miranda Priestley, you could close your eyes and swear you were listening to The Iron Lady and The Devil Wears Prada. The simple costume choices used for each role are also highly effective.

When not being brilliant in her mimicry of Streep, Keddie convincingly toes the fine line between portraying an innocent fan and an obsessed fanatic. Sure, the glint in her eyes and the way she speaks when talking about Streep may sometimes scream ‘stalker!’, but at the same time, the desperation in her voice and the desire to be successful add the nuances of an upcoming artist who has simply found someone who truly inspires her. There were a couple of moments though, where I felt unsure as to what Keddie was trying to say, more so with the inclusion of material about John Cazale. Up until that point I had not known who this person was or that he was such an influence on Streep, and unfortunately I felt the link between them wasn’t made very clear.

Keddie is either legitimately a huge fan of Streep herself or has spent much time researching her in order to be able to weave anecdotal stories of Streep and her Hollywood career together so seamlessly overall  in I See Me; and Meryl Streep. This is an extremely clever and humorous show not only delving into the world of fandom but also offering some insight into the life of a young woman who has a dream to be ‘someone’. And after all, what is so wrong with that?

The premiere season of I See Me; and Meryl Streep was performed at The Butterfly Club, 3 – 7 June 2015.

REVIEW: StageArt Presents A SUPER BRADY CABARET

TV’s favourite family hit the stage

By Narelle Wood

It’s a story we’re all familiar with; a woman with three girls, a man with three boys and a happy household where no problem is ever too big to solve. But A Super Brady Cabaret explores more than the wholesome, teeth-flashing, perky family, it also delves into the darker side of the Brady Bunch.

A Super Brady Cabaret

The show opens with a familiar tune and the ‘on air’ antics that ensue are all the smiley, over-enthused fun and cheese you would expect from the Brady Bunch. Then the ‘on air’ light blinks off and the ‘real’ relationship between each of the cast members comes to life.

Lauren Edwards (Carol), Paul Congdon (Mike) and their six children (Kathleen Amarant, Thomas Bradford, Sophie Weiss, Giancarlo Salamanca, Nicola Guzzardi, Dylan Licastro) are perfectly casted. Under the direction of Drew Downing, this cast form is a flawless ensemble; it was impossible to pick a favourite amongst Marcia’s overt sexuality, Bobby’s watermelon smile, Cindy’s lisp or Jan’s whining. Instead, the highlights of the show come from the onstage chemistry between cast members and their well-timed interactions, as well as some witty and unexpected moments in the script.

The storyline is tight and the songs are well suited to the era of the tv show, featuring hits such as “Islands In The Stream”, “Happy Together:, and “Keep On” made famous by the original Brady Bunch. For all the frivolity of the cabaret there are also some poignant questions that the show deals with, such as what happens to each member of the bunch when the Bradys are no longer?

It’s hard to leave A Super Brady Cabaret without feeling warm and fuzzy, with every moment having either made me smile or laugh out loud. A Super Brady Cabaret is a feel-good way to finish off your day.

Venue: Chapel off Chapel
Season: Wednesday – Saturday, 6.30pm, until 13th June
Tickets: $39 Full | $31 Conc
Bookings: chapeloffchapel.com.au

Image by Belinda Strodder

REVIEW: Emma Clair Ford in LAUGH UNTIL I CRY

Impeccable

By Bradley Storer

A rich languorous voice in the darkness, calling and drawing listeners into the deep folds of blissful undisturbed slumber – as Melbourne cabaret mainstay Emma Clair Ford takes to the stage of The Butterfly Club in her latest work Laugh until I Cry, she trails her characteristic air of seductive mystery and refreshing emotional honesty, wrapped up in a honey-hued voice that thrills at the same time it soothes and relaxes.

Laugh Until I Cry

Laugh Until I Cry is a jazzy exploration of the anxiety-riddled emotional rollercoaster known as adulthood. What sets Ford apart from fellow and equally talented cabaret performers is the absolute economical tightness of her writing, in which not a word seems excessive or unnecessary but perfectly calibrated for maximum effect. Aided by Alister Smith‘s snappy direction, Ford unleashes torrents of manically-driven monologue and beautifully nonsensical dream imagery with admirable clarity and precise diction, the rich underlying musical soundscapes provided by accompanist Vicky Jacobs helping to take the audience on these imaginative journeys.

Ford herself is that contradictory combination of being radiantly charismatic at the same time she is intensely relatable and seemingly ordinary, blessed with a gorgeous voice and comic gift that can take Adele’s ‘Right as Rain’ from a jazzy jaunt into an adrenaline-crazed outburst worthy of Sondheim. Drawing on composers ranging from Gershwin and The Beatles all the way to Michael John LaChiusa, Ford takes us from one end of the day to the other, paralleling the journey from despair to acceptance and forgiveness of our own human frailties.

Laugh until I Cry, as its title implies, is an ultimately joyous celebration of the strength and fortitude needed to wade through even a single day of adult life, a great new work from an established cabaret artist which is mandatory viewing for any cabaret aficionado or those wishing to see cabaret in its purest and most creative form.
Venue: The Butterfly Club, 1 Carson Place, Melbourne.
Dates: 4th – 8th March
Times: Wednesday/Sunday 8pm, Thursday – Saturday 9pm
Tickets: Full $30, Concession $26, Members $25, Group 8+ $24

REVIEW: The Butterfly Club Presents STRANGELY FLAMBOYANT

Quirky comic charm with cabaret combo

By Myron My

On stage for the first time together with their first-ever full length cabaret show Strangely Flamboyant, Claire Healy (Flamboyant: Like a Flame but Buoyant) and Strangely (Roaring Accordion) deliver an entertaining evening consisting of a mis- mash of clever and humorous performances, dialogue and songs.

Strangely Flamboyant

The two establish great camaraderie and bounce off each other well in repartee. Their ad-libbing with one another and with the audience allows their distinct personalities to shine through during the show and for a stronger relationship with us to be formed. This is further strengthened by the intimacy that the performance space at The Butterfly Club creates, so Healy and Strangely can connect with us very quickly.

Both performers have strong dynamic voices and they mix well together and with the accompanying instruments played throughout Strangely Flamboyant: the accordion, the ukulele and the bells. However, I would have loved to see more songs where they both let themselves go. At times, it seemed that just when they were about to transport us with their music or vocals, they pulled back. I especially felt this with Healy’s singing, of which I really wanted to hear more.

The show is filled with numerous genuinely lovely moments, such as when Healy and Strangely perform a song with a variety of bells as the music. The novelty coupled with some audience inclusion in the bell-playing and the sincerity of the lyrics make this number the highlight of this show.

Despite one or two moments that get a little flat, there are plenty of entertaining songs and interactions to make Strangely Flamboyant a whimsical cabaret worth seeing. The long applause at the end of the show was certainly well deserved and I will be eagerly anticipating this duo’s next creation.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 256 Collins St, Melbourne

Season: Until 8 February | Thurs-Sat 9:00pm, Sunday 8:00pm

Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc

Bookings: http://www.thebutterflyclub.com

REVIEW: Yana Alana is BETWEEN THE CRACKS

Once in a blue moon

By Bradley Storer

Yana Alana, the internationally renowned self-proclaimed ‘cabaret provocateur’, returns to fortyfivedownstairs for a second season of her Helpmann Award-winning show Between the Cracks. The title of the show proves to be literal as well as metaphorical, as the cabaret diva (the alter-ego of performer Sarah Ward) emerges into the spotlight clothed in a coat of blue body paint, a dishevelled Marie Antoinette-worthy wig and nothing else.

Between the Cracks

Yana Alana is a narcissistic, self-absorbed and utterly irresistible creation, her feline grin and razor-sharp tongue making her seem (even completely naked) the most confident person in the world. Her vocals are perfection, ranging from a high classical soprano to a ballsy and bluesy belt in her lower range. Her accompanist, Louise Goh, provides the silent straight man to the flamboyant Yana, getting some of the biggest laughs of the night without moving a muscle.

The show itself, seemingly centred on the eternally self-involved Yana’s attempts at self-improvement, deliberately (and hilariously) pushes at the boundaries of acceptability, with songs on topics ranging from anal sex to the inability of celebrities and political figures to say the word ‘sorry’. Scattered throughout are chapters from Yana’s self-help book (whose name is unprintable here) and her witty and winning self-penned poetry. The journey to the show’s surprisingly touching ending, while making sense on an emotional level, is hard to trace intellectually, which makes one wonder if the show has a point or purpose at all – although with a star as charismatic as this, it hardly matters.

Don’t miss out on the return season of this ferociously talented, endlessly provocative and unquestionably hilarious cabaret performer!

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
Time: 7:30pm Tuesday- Saturday, 3pm Sunday
Dates: 16 – 21st December
Tickets: Table Seating $45, Full $42, Conc $35
Bookings: Online at www.fortyfivedownstairs.com, Phone: (03) 9662 9966