Category: Cabaret

Arts Centre Presents The Sounds of Falling Stars

The star-wattage of Cameron Goodall is so bright the audience gasps for air, as he brings to stage the greatest musicians of the 20th century.

By Leeor Adar

The Sound of Falling Stars is a high intensity euphoric gaze into the past, and the falling stars are the men who died too young from living too hard and too fast. Their voices have carried through the decades and into the present (in most cases) in this nostalgic serenade by Goodall and his band of merry men, Enio Pozzebon (on keyboard), and George Butrumlis (on accordion).

Goodall is an explosion of talent; he is harnessed artfully by legend herself, Robyn Archer AO, who has written and directed this utterly fantastic show. Archer who is famed for her intimate shows and soulful sounds, has crafted this portrait of the musicians who died too young. The Sound of Falling Stars contains a litany of music from musicians of the likes of Hank Williams, Bobby Darin, Elvis Presley and all the way to Kurt Cobain. It is Goodall’s excellent voice and ability to mimic the essence of these now deceased icons that really captures the audience.

Goodall first enters the stage as none other than the Sex Pistols’ prince of darkness, Sid Vicious, who at 21 found his demise. Goodall manages to capture the voice and mannerisms of Vicious, and rapidly fire away as Mario Lanza and Sam Cooke the next moment. Goodall’s talent as actor and musician is evident, and the audience is completely in the palm of his hand. It takes effort to embody 31 performers, but Goodall does it without ever breaking out of their rhythm in a relentless show of tragedy and soul.

What is so captivating in The Sound of Falling Stars is the glimpse into the troubled lives of the musicians, and the often-tragic way their lives came to a sudden end. The theme of death, bad fortune and self-destruction pervade the stories. And, as emphasised at the close of the show, many lived and learned on the excellence of musicians past, but also followed the methodology of their own downfalls. One cannot help but consider whether an untimely end would surely ride on the coattails of such whirlwind ascent.

I find myself wanting to listen to all of these musicians, some of whom I collected in my early youth and some of whom were new to me as a Gen Y. One particular standout for me, (but entirely based on my own private musical tastes), was Goodall’s soulful performance of Jeff Buckley. Buckley’s high lilt of melancholy and vocal control is what I imagine to be one of the hardest voices to mimic, but Goodall did it with such precision, I felt for a moment that Buckley waded out of his watery grave back to us at the Arts Centre that night.

Despite the gloom, Goodall captured the heart of the audience through one musician and another, leaving us on a delighted high. I expect we all hope to see Goodall in some other incarnation another time, maybe next time as himself.

The Sound of Falling Stars was performed from 28 February – 3 March 2018 at the Arts Centre, Playhouse.

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MC Showroom Presents Brexiter

In this classic cabaret Fifi La Boom recounts her experiences living the glamorous London lifestyle. 

By Joana Simmons

Classic cabaret combines with self-deprecating Aussie charm in Fifi La Boom’s new one-woman show, Brexiter. FiFi tells, through song and relaxed conversation with the audience, all the woeful and wonderful things that giving a crack at the big time in London brought. And, how her choice to move home after eight years came with its own discoveries. The songs spread from Phantom of the Opera to Jungle, and Fifi’s subtle nuances enticed many hoots and laughs from the audience.

Prahan’s MC showroom is set up in classic cabaret style: a lush red velvet couch, a piano and tables with little candles. When Fifi La Boom bursts onto the stage in a red sequined gown and stilettoes, she immediately puts smiles on the audience’s faces. Divinely dressed, she delivers her show in stream of consciousness like manner. Stories of London life such as auditions, the tube, the pubs and all those side jobs an artist does to survive help us warm to Fifi.

Highlights for me were her rendition of Jungle’s “Busy Earning” which is about the hustle of London (“no one even has time to say ‘Bless You!’”), her story of a lost toy, and a completely on-the-money delivery of “Think of Me” from Phantom of the Opera. There were a few moments though where her singing or song choices fell short, as either they were too long, didn’t have enough physicality, or didn’t sit well in her voice – which is a shame because she sure has a good set of pipes!

The showiest and strongest vocal numbers were found in the middle of the show, rather than the opening. I also noticed some of the text’s delivery created a disconnect between the audience and the story. Such moments however, were redeemed by her fantastically dry comments and subtle facial expressions that gave both sass and life to her character and had us all laughing.

The backdrop, that consisted of a slideshow, provided visual support to the performance. It included pictures of London, of Fifi’s journey and images that seemed like they had been taken from the internet. This convention enhanced the show particularly when they were pictures of her, as they was completely heart-warming.

The pianist, Jane Matheson did not miss a note or a beat. She was truly engrossed in what she was doing, playing with as much expression in her body as what was reaching our ears. The sound and lights were simple, but flawless. One thing I absolutely loved was the ending, the part in me that loves a happy ending was completely won over and indulged as the performance closed.

True tales like this onstage remind us that we’re not alone. Fifi La Boom gets up there, in this classic cabaret, to celebrate and commiserate all she has done in an entertaining evening. Go and get yourselves a sweet little seat!

Brexiter plays at MC Showroom until 4 March.  Tickets can be purchased online.

Arts Centre Melbourne Presents Bernadette Robinson: The Show Goes On

Bernadette Robinson embodies the great songstresses in an astonishing performance teamed with expert storytelling. 

By Narelle Wood

Bernadette Robinson takes the stage again in her one woman show, The Show Goes On. Set around Judy Garland, Robinson introduces an array of amazing songstresses known for their belting voices, and for some their off-stage lives. Included in the repertoire are Streisand, Andrews, Edith Piaf, Shirley Bassey and opera singer Maria Callas.

In true Robinson style, she transitions seamlessly from one songstress to the next and back again. Describing this as a show of impersonations doesn’t really do justice to Robinson’s performance, she embodies these performers from their slightest mannerisms to the smallest inflections in their voices. The song list epitomises the classic hits associated with each of these stars, from Don’t Rain on my parade, Diamonds are forever, La Vie en rose, Over the rainbow and my personal favourite, The trolley song.

Photographs: Bob King

Robinson’s astonishing performance aside and the show itself remains a masterclass in expert storytelling. This is perhaps not surprising given the creative team of Robinson and Richard Carroll. Interjected between, and sometimes during the songs are personal stories from behind the scenes of these extraordinary women. These stories explore everything from the expectation that Judy Garland would never grow up, to Streisand’s early struggles with being a singer, Patsy Cline’s car accident, and even Callaslove affair with Aristotle Onassis.

The transitions between characters are supported by thoughtfully choregraphed movement accross the stage as well as by changes in lighting by designer Trent Suidgeest. While this combination has potential to take you out of the performance, under Carroll’s skilful direction it subtly marks the changes in characters, and only works to enhance rather than distract. It would be remiss not to mention the work of musical director and arranger Martine Wengrow, whose arrangements of Get happy/Happy days are here again and The show goes on/Farther on were standout moments of the show.

The Show Goes On is a combination of most of my favourite songs, exquisitely performed by Robinson. There is nothing not to love about this show, and while I would definitely see The Show Goes On again, I also can’t wait to see what Robinson produces next.

The Show Goes On plays at Arts Centre Melbourne until 11 March.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 182 183.

Midsumma Presents PO PO MO CO’s Birthday Party Show

PO PO MO CO’s latest production is as queer and as comic as ever.

By Joana Simmons

Extremely smart and wonderfully silly is the expression that comes to mind when describing the theatrical delight that is PO PO MO CO’s (Post Post Modern Comedy) Leigh Bowery inspired Second Birthday Show. It’s easy to see why, since its birth at the back of Hares and Hyenas two years ago, this company’s genius brand of queer neo-vaudeville comedy has been snapping up nominations and awards all over the place. 

The back of the bookstore-cum-performance venue that is Hares and Hyenas is the perfect setting for this quirky, immersive event with performers roaming around in character from the moment the doors open. We meet an eastern European couple, Baba and husband Ganoush who have a bunch of artists in their receptacle that they are turning into performance artists. That’s the thread from one sketch to another, and it’s all we need as each sketch is marked by its own individual brilliance. Stand-out moments include the giant conception to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and a hilariously tragic look at climate change. Also to be noted is guest performer – Selena Jenkins and her stunning rendition of two songs by Ke$ha – mixing-up the tone of the evening and giving a full experience.

The production was tight and slick, the soundtrack got the audience going and cues were snappy. The costumes – mostly unitards, redesigned duvet covers, and wonderfully camp combinations – added to the absurdity. Lighting in this simple venue was tasteful and provided contrast where needed. The comical PO PO MO CO crew, directed by award-winning vaudevillian and comic genius Liz Skitch includes the talented Kimberley Twiner, Lily Fish, Precious Cargo, David Maney, Claire Sullivan, Anna Lehmann Thomson, Amaya Vecellio and Hallie Goodman.

Skitch has done a top-notch job at creating work that pushes buttons and tickles funny bones whilst packing a punch at the same time. The only lull in the show was after some fantastic audience participation to dress the Leigh Bowery mannequins (what fun!). Its ending and subsequent transition to the next sketch was somewhat clunky. Still, grotesque glamour, tactful truths and queer comedy are laid out for fine-viewing pleasure.

One thing that I love about theatre is how creatives are given a chance to say something. Sometimes I feel this position of power is abused and the work can be self-indulgent, however PO PO MO CO are the complete opposite of this. What they do is so clever, it’s not until the end that we realise how that sketch proves a point. Second Birthday Show presented by Midsumma Festival 2018 is a sweet, social commentary that gets under the skin but feels oh so good. Start your February the fabulously funny way and get a ticket today.

 

Dates: 1 – 3 Febuary
Venue: Hares and Hyenas, 63 Johnston St, Fitzroy
Times: 7:00pm
Prices: $15 – $20
Bookings: https://midsumma.org.au/program/popomo18

 

Midsumma Presents RIOT

Dublin-based company, THISISPOPBABY have brought a perfect mix of outrageous comedy, skill-based acts and quality variety to Arts Centre Melbourne

By Ciara Thorburn

THISISPOPBABY’s latest show, RIOT is everything you expect and everything you don’t. This perfect montage of cabaret, drag, music, dance and circus, mixed with political undertones will leave you both reflective and inspired.

A glittery and sexy opening introduces four mysteriously hooded figures, who soon reveal themselves as RIOT’s talented vocalists (Alma Kelliher, Adam Matthews and Nicola Kavanagh). Spoken word poet, Kate Brennan delivers emotive stories that address diverse subjects from teen pregnancy to capitalism. Her powerful and rhythmical style give us a sense of the raw, reckless ride that we are about to embark on.

Drag artist, Panti Bliss as MC leads us through the evening’s performances in a camp and rowdy fashion. Add a sensitive strongman who defies gender norms (Ronan Brady) to this already spectacular group of artists, as well as a quirky and captivating tap-dance duo (Philip Connaughton and Deirdre Griffin) and the Lords of Strut, and you have one hell of a talented cast. The crowd favourite was easily the former stars of Britain’s Got Talent, the Lords of Strut – if you haven’t heard or seen these guys before, prepare yourselves because what you will see cannot be unseen. In a ruckus of ‘80s dance parody, lycra leotards and homemade mankinis their ridiculousness proves to be absolute genius. These guys really steal the show with their loveable stupidity and impeccable comedic timing.

What stands out most is the cast of diverse, passionate and highly-skilled performers who bring a mashup of specialties together to complement each other delightfully. Too often we see high (or low) budget shows where the performers look exhausted, run down, or like they would prefer to be somewhere else. Every act in RIOT brings a fresh performer to the stage boasting peerless energy and incomparable talent.

Dublin-based company, THISISPOPBABY have brought a perfect mix of outrageous comedy, skill-based acts and quality variety to Arts Centre Melbourne as part of Midsumma Festival 2018. RIOT is a pro-queer, pro-fun, pro-friendly spectacle where anything goes and anything can happen. It’s an absolute delight of a show and a great night out with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or both.
Dates: 31 January – 9 February
Venue: Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne
Prices: $30 – $79
Bookings: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2018/circus-and-magic/riot

Midsumma Presents Lucky: Songs by Kylie

Glimpse into the life of one of Australia’s greatest pop artists

By Bradley Storer

Barely surviving in the sweltering heat, the spirits of the audience at fortyfivedownstairs were lifted as we were greeted by that perfect 80’s pop confection “I Should Be So Lucky”, which also provides the title for Lucky: Songs by Kylie as part of Midsumma Festival.

The show is bound together loosely by a slim narrative of Minogue’s life, beginning with her first collaboration with powerhouse pop composers Stock Aitken Waterman and writer/director Dean Bryant, which keeps the pace brisk and sparse. Songs are tied into key moments of Minogue’s career, her romance with Michael Hutchence and eventual diagnosis with breast cancer (interspersed with a few Craig McLachlan jokes that felt slightly too soon after last week’s allegations). A point is made of Minogue not being regarded warmly by Australian audiences at the beginning of her career, when she transitioned from soap starlet to massively successful musical artist, until she found success overseas – a reminder of how deep ‘tall poppy syndrome’ runs in Australian culture and how we still fail to embrace our local artists.

The main attraction here is the music, and under musical director James Simpson with his four piece band, the hits don’t stop coming. From her biggest hits, re-arranged much the same way Minogue herself has modified them throughout her lengthy career, to numbers less familiar (“Hand on Your Heart” was particularly poignant) the audience was bopping along and mouthing the lyrics joyfully. A medley of her dance anthems sped things along, but with her massive back-catalogue of familiar numbers it felt like a tease to only hear a few lines of each. Her best work – “Can’t Get You Out My Head”, “Better the Devil You Know”, and “Confide in Me” to name a few – was well represented.

Michael Griffith played Minogue herself, but in no way attempted to sound like, look like or imitate Kylie. Speaking as her, Griffith instead channeled the diva through the prism of his own mischievous charm, and his obvious joy and enthusiasm for singing Minogue’s music was incredibly infectious. His bright, clear singing tone suited the material perfectly and was supported by a bevy of backing vocals from the band.

A glimpse into the life of one of Australia’s greatest pop artists, and more importantly, an excuse to listen to some of the catchiest pop music ever written – Lucky: Songs by Kylie was the perfect Midsumma treat!

Lucky: Songs by Kylie ran until 21 January, 2018 for Midsumma Festival.

Butterfly Club Presents Cell, Block Tango: Show Tunes of Modern Dating

A comic education in modern dating

By Narelle Wood

What is not to love about the combination of a Fosse style cabaret, bad pick-up lines and terrible tales from the dating scene? Cell, Block Tango: Show Tunes on Modern Dating provides an uncomfortably accurate and therefore very funny perspective of what it is like to be immersed in the modern, singles scene.

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The show is a combination of show tunes, from the likes of Cabaret, Sweet Charity and Chicago: it’s a little disturbing how well some of these tunes, for example Mr Cellophane, seem to capture the experiences of the dating world. Scattered amongst the reworked and reworded tunes are anecdotes exploring everything from the do’s and don’ts of creating a Tinder profile, negotiating the perils of the first date, and of course the feelings of hope of having finally found ‘the one’ and the soul-crushing disappointment of having let ‘the one’ go. It’s a modern tale, so there are references to ghosting, unsolicited pics, and ways emojis are used for sexual innuendo. It was obvious from the laughter that this was familiar territory for most of the audience.

There were some small instances of first night nerves from Lelda Kapsis, Andrew Iles and Louise Baxter, but that aside the cast had chemistry, strong voices and delivered their monologues with conviction. A couple of times it was a little hard to hear due to some varying microphone heights, but this is being really nitpicky.

I was worried when I sat down and we were invited to share some bad dating and pick-up line stories that the show was going to be interactive: this always makes me very uncomfortable. But the cast were both respectful of people declining the invitation and of people’s personal anecdotes. No one was harassed, embarrassed or singled out.

This show is a perfect combination of the satirical style of something like The Office and cabaret. Regardless of whether you are single, in a loved-up couple, or have an alternative romantic arrangement, Cell, Block Tango: Show Tunes on Modern Dating is guaranteed to either provide some good laughs or at the very least an education. Although I’m not sure it would be suitable for a first date – the humour maybe based on a reality a little too close to home – it’s definitely worth the night out, and I certainly left still chuckling.

 

Dates: 16 – 21 January

Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Off Little Collins Street, Melbourne

Times: 8:30pm

Prices: $26 – $32

Bookings: thebutterflyclub.com/show/cell-block-tango-showtunes-on-modern-dating