Category: Cabaret

Review: La Vie Broheme

Quirky cabaret celebrates bromance and musical theatre

By Narelle Wood

Josh Gavin and Dom Hennequin take to the stage and bring a range of musical numbers to life. The duo belt out songs from Dear Evan Hanson, Smash, Dream Girls, Frozen and Kinky Boots just to name a few.

The songs are loosely connected through stories of their bromance shaped by a range of musical theatre experiences aided by Mark Taylor’s direction and David Youings’ musical direction. The adoration the two performers have for each other is evident through their well-meaning banter and willingness to ad-lib throughout the show. The story moves from shared auditions, to moments performing in shows, to a missing father joke that perhaps because of the realism of the other stories felt more than a little uncomfortable. It did however provide a transition into a standout performance of I’m not my father’s son, which, along with the deliberately over performed You’re going to love me, were exceptional vocal performances.

Given the short run of this performance (only two shows) the thought put into lighting cues, set and the use of stage was really very good. My view of Gavin and Hennequin as well as the occasional appearance of Emma Russell was often impeded by the heads of those seated in front, especially when the action dropped below head height. This meant that many in the audience were struggling to see some of the fabulous interactions happening on the couch.

The show was sweet and provided a very indulgent foray into some musical theatre classics and some lesser known hits. While I and the musical theatre aficionados in the audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy the performance, there were a few in-jokes and audience participation requests that my friend and a few other audience members commented went over their heads. In saying that, it’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon, and hear some well performed show tunes.

La Vie Broheme is being performed at MC Showroom 11 and 18 November. Tickets can be purchased online.


Dance Hall: The Diva Carousel

Seductive and scintillating performance art 

By Leeor Adar

Moira Finucane and her troupe of alt-glitterati storm upon the Luna Park Speigeltent; it’s all shimmies and wild confidence, and I admit I’m excited to see what’s dished up.

Finucane & Smith (Finucane and partner Jackie Smith) are my favourite kind of art collectors – they find unique artists to celebrate and perform with, taking their shows across the globe and showcasing a daring kind of stage appeal not often seen in Australia. I was first enamoured with Finucane’s work in the acclaimed Carnival of Mysteries, which submerged its audience in an unworldly and exciting place.

Finucane has an enormous stage presence; admittedly it’s unfathomable to think of anyone like her. Her magnificent height and figure coupled with her tremendous voice command a room, and it is at this point she rapidly takes her disco-pumping show to socio-political territory. No stone is left unturned in Finucane’s summation of the week’s events. Whether you agree with her or not, it was an unexpected turn for a dance-hall inspired show. It’s not the first time a performer has turned up the heat in the age of live-streaming, but I was expecting Finucane to take a different approach.

Once we were sufficiently enlightened, I was completely sucked into the thumping beats in an ode to various styles of music and performance, particularly to James Welsby voguing out, or the Bollywood craze ignited by Paul Cordeiro. The evening took another turn with the epic voice of Willow Sizer sizzling us with her Berlin-cabaret flair, and Clare St Clare gliding on stage to provide us with her scintillating vocal breathiness.

Dance Hall establishes itself as a variety show of amazing and fearless talent, and as the second act rolled round, I was pleasantly surprised by the humour and brilliance of ideas on display. I marvelled at the wonderful Maude Davey as she spun us into a frenzy of laughs dressed as planet earth, and then serenaded the audience into a misty-eyed state with her ballads. Finucane returned to utterly own the stage in a seductive pie-splattering performance that will have me looking for alternative uses for tomato sauce hereafter. I was eventually thrown by Mama Alto into the depths of my emotions with a rendition of Des’ree’s Kissing You, a performance which absolutely nailed in its final moments the vocal gymnastics of the piece.

Overall, I walked out of the spiegeltent satisfied and a touch overwhelmed. I was seduced by its glamour, blushed at its candour, and sighed at its occasional poignancy.

Dance Hall: The Diva Carousel was performed 10 – 14 October at the St Kilda Spiegeltent in Luna Park. See See here for the latest updates of Finucane & Smith.

Photograph: supplied

Fringe presents Dudebox

Bold, Brash and Full of Bobbly Bits

By Joana Simmons

Kimberly Twiner (PO PO MO CO) has enlisted some of Melbourne’s hottest babes in her latest variety show Dudebox. Sketches, songs, clowning, neo-burlesque and physical comedy all weave together to dig fingers into the ribs of the patriarchy in a humorous and delicious fashion. Artists Kimberley Twiner, the Travelling Sisters, Lily Fish (PO PO MO CO), Becky Lou (Seen and Heard Cabaret), Selina Jenkins (Beau Heartbreaker), Hallie Goodman (Spoon Monkeys), Sharnema Nougar (Two Little Dickheads) and Fox Pflueger (Max Freak) unite and it’s as good as when the Avengers got back together.

We were warmed up by the Travelling Sisters as we came in. Each sketch by different combinations of the cast was well devised and made strong statements. There was a hilarious hen’s night scene that provided some great commentary on marriage which climaxed with a performance by a feminist-stripper. Many moments had us laughing and cringing because of lustfully grotesque clowning or the revelation of truths a little too close to home.

Standouts included Beau Heartbreaker’s honest and beautiful nuances during Caravan Park Neighbour Blues. Twiner’s tradie character who was equipped with a very interesting piece of machinery and had us eating out of her hand and lapping up every little facial expression. The Travelling Sisters’ auction was a scream. The trio sang wonderful harmonies full of intensity that were completely off the wall. The beer version of Rich Man’s Frug was brilliant with its stylised and juicy choreography.

The show was stolen for me by the penultimate number: Lily Fish’s best man speech. It was beautifully bittersweet and hilariously heart-wrenching. The characterisation, content and delivery were bang on, making it an unforgettable performance.

Herding a bunch of independent artists together to create a show is mighty tricky and takes serious time and creative magic. There were some moments that unfortunately fell flat because they were either too long, lacked structure or needed more gags, choreography or spectacle.

The ending fronted by Sharnema Nougar, while incredibly costumed, didn’t do justice to the rest of the show. Maybe some kind of MC character or thread to pull everything together would have been useful. Though the costuming was brilliant, which is satisfying to see a Fringe show put in the effort to make aesthetically pleasing work, and the sound was right on cue, as was the lighting.

I am excited to see where Dudebox goes, because it’s bold, brash and full of boobs and other bobbly bits. It had enough of an effect on me that I reprimanded someone for casual sexism in the workplace the day after – such is the power of theatre like this.

Dudebox was performed 26 – 28 September at the Lithuanian Club as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. See here for more information.

Review: Disenchanted

Has the damsel in distress had her day?

By Narelle Wood 

It’s a tale as old as time: pretty damsel finds herself in distress and is rescued by a handsome prince. Well woodland creatures, princes and enchanted rodents beware; these damsels are disenchanted with their lot and they’re not afraid to sing about it.

Disenchanted, directed by (Madison Thew-Keyworth) is a cabaret-style show lead by Snow White (Ellie Nunan), Cinderella (Courtney Underhill) and the occasionally conscious Sleeping Beauty (Tayla Johnston). To highlight the many issues with what the princesses term “the princess complex” the trio of merry maidens are joined on stage by some other famous females including Mulan, Pocahontas and Princess Badroulbadour – or as we now know her, Princess Jasmine –  (all played by Jennifer Trijo), Belle, Ariel, Rapunzel (all played by Demi Phillips) and Tiana (Asabi Goodman), the first African American Disney princess, who also happened to kiss a frog.

Together the princesses take a slightly more realistic, some may say a little cynical but much needed, look at their fairy-tale storylines, and in doing so raise a few questions around the types of messages these stories are sending and whether the idea of a damsel in distress has had its day.

There are songs about cultural appropriation, the Disney-fixation on making grim tales more palpable to children, and the capitalist venture that is princess entertainment. Cinderella’s anthem for an image-obsessed generation, All I Wanna Do is Eat, is just one of many songs that touch on body image issues, which are suggested to stem from the unrealistic proportions often used to portray the feminine physique. My favourite song though is Snow White’s truthful version of what she would like to be singing while she worked, and despite being an upbeat and perky number called A Happy Tune, Snow White drives home some pretty hard-hitting messages about household equality.

The show’s a hoot. The band – under the musical direction of Bradley McCaw – look like they’re having a blast. The cast has charm, wit and beauty, which is everything you could want in a prince, and is all wrapped up in a feisty fairy-tale princess package. Snow White is cool, calm and in control and Cinderella’s comic timing is perfect. Sleeping Beauty is, when she’s not asleep, a little over sexed – which is a good opportunity to point out that this show is not recommended for anyone under the age of 15. Best leave the little princesses at home.

Disenchanted was an Off-Broadway hit and it’s not hard to see why. It’s not the fairy-tale we know, but it is very much the modern take on these fairy-tale classics that we need to hear.

Disenchanted, presented by Mad About Theatre, is being performed at Athenaeum Theatre 6 – 8 September.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 13 28 49.

Photograph: Rick Monk

From: New York, For: Him

Rom-com cabaret sings of Trump, immigration and romance

By Narelle Wood

It is fair to say that any show that mentions the word “Trump” is probably going to elicit an eye roll or two. While Melissa David’s story might be brought to us by Trump’s immigration mess, this acts merely as a turning point in much larger story, rather than the story itself.

From: New York For: Him details David’s journey from aspiring actress, to girl in love with a married American in Australia feeling a little lost. David does not rely on the clichéd three-act narrative structure for her story, rather the story meanders through highs and lows and back again with such fluency it is hard to gauge where the story will go next, making it as charming as it is heart-wrenching.

Despite David’s clear confidence – she rocks an awesome lace and velvet skin-tight jumpsuit – there are moments of vulnerability as well. David’s rendition of Sara Bareilles’ She used to be mine epitomises both the strength and vulnerability of her performance; I’ve never quite seen anyone manage to move an audience so easily and seamlessly through such a range of emotions.

While there are some familiar musical numbers, such as Whitney Housten’s I have nothing, David also borrows from jazz and other genres to compliment her stories from Broadway auditions, hippy parents to finally making the decision to come to Australia. Accompanying her on the piano is Peppy Smears whose fabulousness does not end with his carefully crafted outfit. He not only provides the music, he is the perfect sidekick delivering additional theatrics and witty repartee that just adds one more thing to love about this show.

Leaving the theatre it was clear that I was not the only one who thoroughly enjoyed the production. Comments from other audience members ranged from complimenting the power of David’s voice, to remarking how quickly the show seemed to finish. From: New York, For: Him might be about immigration problems and love, but it feels like catching up with old friends who are recounting the adventures of the last few years.

From: New York, For: Him runs until 18 August at the Butterfly Club.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9663 8107.

Photograph: Junior Deluise

Review: Dancing on the Volcano

Celebrated star, Robyn Archer AO, delves into cabaret from Berlin in the ’20s and ’30s

By Leeor Adar

It was indeed a time to be alive, between two World Wars in Germany, the highs and lows of life were encapsulated in the music of the era. A time marked as a period in the eye of a storm, poets and artists thrived in their joy at the end of 1919, and experienced the rattling descent into Nazi Germany. ‘Dancing on the volcano’ was an apt term for the artistic world of Germany in this period. Kabarett, a German form of political satire was commentary wrapped up in performance – a musical send up of the times.

Providing the historical context of the music only adds to the gravity of its content, and Robyn Archer AO, takes her audience on an educational journey with her long-time collaborators, Michael Morley on piano, and George Butrumlis on accordion.  Delving into the political carnage of the times, kabarett was also intensely concerned with the darker facets of the human identity – murder, sexuality, and obsession. It absolutely exploded in the 1920s, and saw the likes of Bertolt Brecht, Hans Eisler, Kurt Weil and Friedrich Hollaender take centre stage in this dark and electric world. Many of their pieces are performed with a lightness of tone, but deal with child murderers and the disintegration of society.

The performance begins on a pleasant note, with charming and saucy numbers like Kurt Tucholsky’s Anna Luise, which focuses on a man’s reminiscence of his time under a buxom woman’s skirt. However, it is not long before we find ourselves thrust into darker territory, stricken with tales of criminal conduct and the seedy underbelly of Berlin. The collaboration between Weill and Brecht for The Threepenny Opera resulted in the notorious and widely loved Mack the Knife. It was a pleasure to hear Archer perform the classic, and a special note must be made to Morley’s piano playing with this piece, perhaps cementing itself as my favourite rendition.

Archer relishes in the humour of the music, and her gestures throughout send her audience into fits of laughter even when a grandmother is being slain in Frank Wedekind’s Granny Murderer. The tongue in cheek humour of kabarett often savagely dealt with the cruelties of the world, something Archer clearly appreciates. This is most notable in her powerful performance of Friedrich Hollaender’s The Jews. Archer’s performance descends into the fist and head shaking notorious of a certain Chancellor, that when she finally lays the blame on multiple minorities in a final crash, she utterly rattles her audience. We are experiencing a rise of similar attitudes in our present day. Such is the power of the kabarett.

The delivery is overall strong, however I find the occasional phrasing in English leaves Archer breathless, as the translations don’t always flow so well. I appreciated when Archer would occasionally croon in perfect German – another example of her expansive skill as a performer. I must note here though, it would be harsh to expect a non-German speaking audience to grasp the subtle and brilliant flashes of truth conveyed in the words, and so much of Dancing on the Volcano is an ode to the power of words.

After the dark turns with The Jews and Brecht and Hans Eisler’s tragic horse in Falladah, the audience is both exhausted and in need of an injection of hope. Anticipating this need, Archer ends with Brecht and Eisler’s once again in the wonderful Bilbao Song.

I exited with greater knowledge and some joy from the night out, but also exited imagining a society ripping apart the horse it once loves stays on with me.

Dancing on the Volcano was performed at Arts Centre  Melbourne 9 – 11 July.

Review: Club Provocaré

Alive and seductive cabaret complete with original acts

By Ciara Thorburn

Enter, David Williamson Theatre, enter darkroom, enter a packed yet cosy and sexy bar. Enter, Club Provocaré. The impeccable Queen of Kink, Bernie Dieter presents a killer line-up of world class acts and a delectable selection of some of Melbourne’s best performers. With favourites including Karen from Finance’s skilled and hilarious lip-synch drag and the stunning choreography in Laurie Hagan’s (Club Swizzle, Vegas Nocturne) reverse Burlesque act – this show is unmissable. Though it’s too little, too late as the entire season of Provocaré has already sold out.

With musical prowess and racy charisma, host and MC Bernie Dieter commands the stage and the audience, with her guests wrapped around her finger (and her velvet sequined unitard) from the outset. She gently caresses her audience into submission, coaxing them to divulge their fantasies and embrace their desires as she introduces each new act. The rawness of this show only added to it’s realness, with a few technical malfunctions taken in the stride of these seasoned professionals. This show is an excellent fusion of genres (drag, burlesque, circus, musical theatre) within a cabaret format, lucky to be seen and flawlessly presented by Chapel Street’s Provocaré Festival.

The facetious and charismatic attitudes of these strong female characters who dominate the production are empowering and seductive. Highlights of the show include the cultural delight Yusura – a master fetish geisha – who ventures into kink as she pours searing hot wax over her extravagantly tattooed body. Yusura leaves the audience in a sense of titillating torment.

Unique, provocative and complete with original acts performed by unparalleled performers, Club Provocaré is a spectacle of Australia’s best talent. Next year, make sure you get your tickets early.

Club Provocaré is being performed 5 – 15 July at the David Williamson Theatre. For more information about Provocaré Winter Festival 2018, take a look at their official website.