Tag: Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2011

REVIEW: Le Gateau Chocolat (UK)

His motto? “In drag, but not a drag!”

By Kim Edwards

On his opening night for this year’s Melbourne Cabaret Festival, UK cabaret sensation and star of La Clique Le Gateau Chocolat got a standing ovation from his wolf-whistling, foot-stamping and highly delighted audience.

Even the demure middle-aged lady to whom he had given the vigorous and pelvis-thrusting lap dance, the young guy who had earlier made the ‘wrong’ choice of dance over song, and the poor straight man he’d made joyous fun off in the front row were on their feet applauding until their hands were sore.

Melbourne announced emphatically that they loved this plump, pleasurable  and piquant performer, and with his grandiose voice and outlandish personality, there is certainly plenty in this performance to enjoy.

Le Gateau Chocolat is everything that’s fabulous about drag, but with his revealing one-piece lycra suit, his beard surmounted by spectacularly beautiful makeup and luscious lashes, and his rich and rumbling bass-baritone voice, this diva is not at all about female impersonation.

His performance, like his ridiculous and glorious wardrobe, is shameless in calling attention to anything and showing off everything. The show exploits all the classic cabaret diva cliches, and his relentless showtune song list is an exemplar of everything cabaret performers should normally avoid – but the wonderful charm of his outrageous character and the fabulous musical arrangements that showcase his beefy and beautiful baritone sound were triumphant crowd-pleasers.

Accompanied by an excellent pianist and cellist, and starring alongside his beloved costume rail Bruce and over-sized suitcases of lycra, Gateau is all dolled up to feed your showtune cabaret and sugary chocolate addictions.

Le Gateau Chocolat’s final solo show is tonight 23 July at 8.30pm in the Grand Hall of South Melbourne Town Hall, but you can also have your cake and hear him too tomorrow night for the festival’s Big Gay Cabaret Sunday Finale! See www.melbournecabaret.com for the details…

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Review: HEY WORLD, HERE I AM – The Streisand Story

Australian artist Avigail Herman celebrates our favourite Funny Girl

By Kate Boston-Smith

 There is no faulting Avigail Herman’s vocal ability and technique. A mainstay of Australian music and theatre, people are more likely to recognize her voice than her name, and it is with this exceptional voice and her tremendous talent that she channels Streisand into the room with us for this year’s Melbourne Cabaret Festival

Performing in a difficult space, Herman opens her heart through the songs of Barbra Streisand to her audience. Herman is a true professional in every sense of the word. This show is classic and sleek and Herman is as intelligent as she is talented. 

As the show title suggests, she tell stories of Streisand and her 40-year career while flawlessly covering her beloved and expansive body of music, including classics we all know and love to more obscure numbers that are playful and fun.

Lovers and fans of the stage and Hollywood diva will be on the edge of their seat as each song starts, and again when it finishes as there no knowing where Herman is going to take us next on this journey. The Streisand-uninitiated will enjoy learning about this incredible woman, all she has achieved and where she has come from. 

Songs are breath-taking and wonderfully recognizable.  At times I heard audience members singing along, tapping their feet and at one point, holding their beloveds in romantic embraces.

It was a beautiful show, and ideal for those wanting to be transported to a New York cabaret lounge for an hour of the wintery evening.

Performed by Avigail Herman and accompanied by Peter Bailey

Tonight and Sunday 24 July, 9.15pm


Tickets: $38 / $35


The Liber Room next to the South Melbourne Library (opposite Town Hall)

Review: THE BEST (AND WORST) of Queenie van de Zandt

A loveable and laughable performance

By Kate Boston-Smith

Queenie van de Zandt is a vocal powerhouse filled with warmth and goodwill who knows how to laugh, especially at herself.  Her 2011 Melbourne Cabaret Festival show The Best (and Worst) of Queenie van de Zandt is a fantastic stroll down memory lane. 

Though we, the audience, don’t know these memories firsthand, van de Zandt acknowledges her non-celebrity and celebrates it with gusto and humor using photos, promotional material and personal keepsakes.

With 22 years in the business she has a kaleidoscope of stories to share.  That said, this is not a show written to gloat or big-note (though she has the vocal strength do so should she wish). No, this is a story about her journey; her ups, downs, mistakes and ultimately her passion for singing and performing.  It is like she takes the audience by the hand into the living room for a cup of tea at an intimate family gathering, where she shares pictures, hilarious horror stories and laughter.

Van de Zandt is welcoming and generous, playful and cheeky.  Her song choice displays her incredible, self-taught, vocal ability. Her inspiring song choices include the likes of ABBA, Olivia Newton-John and Joni Mitchell to name a few. 

She commands the stage, yet allows for interaction, sharing the spotlight with her adoring audience.

As she playfully poked fun at her lack of notoriety, I couldn’t help but empathise.  Not knowing much about her before I walked into the show, I can honestly say I left feeling like an old-friend; such is the connection she has with us.

If you are looking for a beautiful, honest show about joy, heartache and renewal all told with warmth and humor then this is the cabaret for you.

Performed by Queenie van de Zandt with Lucy Bermingham accompanying.

Tonight & Sunday 24 July,  8.15pm

$40 / $37

The Incubator, Auspicious Arts,

228 Bank Street, South Melbourne

REVIEW: Mark Jones and Geraldine Quinn sing SONGS FROM UNDER THE BED

Rediscovering great Australian music, cabaret-style

By Bradley Storer

At the beginning of the evening the two performers, Mark Jones and Geraldine Quinn, were casual as they walked onstage through the audience. They chatted excitedly to one another, briefly pausing to tease three eager audience members sitting in the front row. This atmosphere continued throughout the performance, Mark and Geraldine bantering playfully with one another (and a particularly talkative group near the front) between songs.

Their highly polished performances stood in stark contrast to their informal stage manner. The concept behind this show was to uncover and explore the treasures of Australian song-writing which have been hidden or lost, figuratively, ‘under the bed’. There were a broad range of songs chosen, from Paul Kelly, John Williamson to Claire Bowditch as well as a few originals thrown in.

Geraldine Quinn is a highly charismatic performer, with a large range and a powerful voice. Mark Jones was the perfect foil to her flamboyant stage presence, responding to Geraldine’s continual attempts to make good-hearted jibes at him with a cheekily deadpan expression. With their natural chemistry onstage, the two were a joy to watch.

There were many highpoints during the evening. The first was an exquisite duet of Paul Kelly’s ‘Deeper Water’ which actually brought tears to the eyes of this reviewer. Later there was a suite of Australian murder ballads (not Nick Cave, surprisingly) which related to specific geographical locations in Australia.

Beginning with a hilarious duet about the Snowtown murders, the two took turns with individual songs –  Mark sinisterly half-speaking, half-singing his section before seamlessly passing onto Geraldine who finished with an acoustic rendering of ‘Everything’s Turning to White’ which stunned with its simplicity and underplayed intensity. A surprising inclusion was a sprightly ode by Mick Thomas to the Australian sub-culture of the ‘Cave Clan’ – the concept of a real-life group of ‘subterranean Freemasons’ was unknown to me, and had apparently only been introduced to the performers when they discovered the song. Under the bed indeed!

While a fantastic night overall, a tighter focus needed to be present – sometimes the evening meandered as the performers took too long between songs to banter between themselves and the audience, and the show ended up going overtime and they were disappointingly forced to skip several songs to finish up. Other than this, it was an evening of amazing Australian music sung by two excellent performers which would be a great night for anyone (even those unfamiliar with a lot of Australian music).

Performances on  Saturday 23rd, Sunday 24th July at 6:30pm

The Lamond Room, South Melbourne Town Hall

Tickets:  Full $35/ Concession $32 @ www.melbournecabaret.com 

REVIEW: Suade are FOR ADULTS ONLY

Good clean dirty a capella fun!

By Maxine Montgomery

On  Suade’s website, there are quotes from audience members who attended the boys’ 2010 Melbourne Cabaret Festival offering: ““My God, those guys can sing – but I’m glad I didn’t bring the kids” and “I nearly laughed my guts out.”

With those two quotes in my head, I went along to see For Adults Only expecting something akin to the musical version of ‘Men Behaving Badly’.

And the lads did not disappoint!

After dealing with an initial technical audio glitch with the right measure of professionalism and humour, the show began with some classic Stevie Wonder done a capella which got the crowd into the right mood for what would be a night of great singing and fabulous cheek.

I was surprised to find the opening number to be suitable for children – but all that was about to change. Perhaps it was designed to first introduce the uninitiated to the sound of a capella and then hit us with dirty stuff after a couple of numbers.

And, oh man, did it get dirty! That awkward moment with a new love when you’re so nervous you’re coming and going at the same time. The lengths to which you’d go to please your woman – “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that”. Or exploring the benefits of role play to spice up your relationship.  My personal favourite was Loz’s song of creative insults (his words, not mine). Along with many in the crowd, I found myself simultaneously screaming with both laughter and horror.

The lyrics, the choreography, the obscene hand gestures – Suade know how to have fun and take the audience with them every step of the way. It was delightful seeing the boys trying to crack up each other mid-song.

But more importantly – their singing most definitely has the “wow” factor. One can only begin to imagine the number of hours that go into creating the perfect balance and execution of just one song, let alone a whole program. The final ascending chord of the night had me thinking, “Hot, hot, HOT!” – the sound that the guys produce is polished, tight and more than a little bit sexy.

Suade are an a capella tour de force.

If you’re a fan of damn fine singing, a good clean bit of dirty fun and you are a self proclaimed filthy bastard (again, Loz’s words, not mine!), get along to one of the two remaining shows this weekend.

Suade presents For Adults Only at the 2011 Melbourne Cabaret Festival.

Sat/Sun July 23/24 @ 8pm

Lamond Room, South Melbourne Town Hall

Tickets $37/$34 @ www.melbournecabaret.com

REVIEW: Tommy Bradson in PIRATE RHAPSODY MERMAID REQUIEM

Down into cabaret depths with this seductive and scurvy tale…

By Kate Boston Smith

Tommy Bradson is a passionate performer who barely draws breath during his poetic and emblazed performance.

His cabaret Pirate Rhapsody Mermaid Requiem for the Melbourne Cabaret Festival is an unbridled verbal and musical explosion about love, life, sex and all the murky waters in between. 

It is as though he has been set adrift and drunk the waters on which he floats to then return in search of truth and real connection. 

Celebrating curiosity in a scene where he explores “Without wonder where would we be?”, his show condemns the mediocre meanderings of taken-for-granted lives.

Split into two stories, Bradson’s cabaret serves up a feast of tales and observations.  His words ignite, lighting up the dark theatrette with a blaze that lingers long after he has continued into his next thought. 

Bradson performs in thick accents, one being old, rich, Irish and at times almost impossible to decipher.  This is by no means a hindrance to the performance as it draws you further in.

Moreover Bradson holds his audience by the balls, or whatever they consider safe and dear to them

There are few performers who can write and deliver shows to this magnitude of divine agony without making the audience cringe or wish they were elsewhere. 

Pirate Rhapsody Mermaid Requiem is a one-man show with the spirit of 10-strong cast.  It moves, dances, provokes, interacts and evokes sentiment we can relate to in our darkest hours….all with the sharp slap of dark humour to it

This is a show that could nestle into the bosom off Broadway or in the crotch of the theatre-set in East London.  It is poetic, it is raw and it is not for the faint hearted.

Pirate Rhapsody Mermaid Requiem is part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival 2011

Written and Performed by Tommy Bradson


Composed and Arranged by John Thorn

Final festival show tonight Thursday 21 July, 8.15pm


Tickets $33 / $30

The Incubator, Auspicious Arts, 228 Bank Street, South Melbourne

REVIEW: Emily Taylor in HELLO YOU

This kamikaze cabaret is ambiguous, off-beat and excessively endearing

By Bradley Storer

Emily Taylor made her entrance wearing only high heels, a long coat and a confident smile. She wordlessly appraised each individual in the front row before presenting one particular lady with a bouquet of flowers. This opening managed to encapsulate the spirit of the entire show: intimate and mysterious as well as friendly and touching.

This ‘kamikaze cabaret’ mixes stories of childhood, family and heartbreak with dreamscapes, songs and improvised interactions with audience members to create a piece that bounces from topic to topic with child-like energy and enthusiasm.

The audience are treated like the inhabitants of Emily’s constantly shifting dream-world, changing from strangers to childhood friends without warning. They are kept constantly engaged through quirky games or the sentimental mementos Emily occasionally passes around for show-and-tell.

The rapid shifts in time and place can be disorienting, making it difficult at times to keep up with the flow of the story. However since the aim of the show appears to be to depict the fluctuating terrains of memory and dream, this ambiguity actually makes sense in context. The effective lighting design helps to minimize the confusion and creates a unique space for each territory encountered.

Emily Taylor is utterly charming, her bright open face instantly endearing her to the audience. Her enormous energy and commitment, combined with some ingenious and creative staging, turn what could have been clichéd material into something unique and hilarious (my particular favourite was the subtly filthy trampoline gag). Emily skilfully handles improvisation with the audience, constructing stories about the lives of the audience members which she then blends seamlessly into her final monologue. Her accompanist Quinn Stacpoole provides responsive and illustrative backdrops against which Emily’s tales and dreams play out.

The sombre finale of the show gathers up the fragments of all that has come before into a series of interconnecting monologues, weaving together haunting images of death, aging and loneliness. All these subjects appear, albeit hidden, in the stories throughout the show and provide a surprisingly appropriate conclusion to this seemingly light-hearted piece.

The final performance of Hello You is at 6:45 on Thursday 21st July, at the Auspicious Arts Incubator, 228 Bank St, South Melbourne as part of the Melbourne Cabaret Festival.

Ticket prices: $33 Full/ $30 Concession

Tickets can be booked online at MelbourneCabaret.com