Jest Like Danny Kaye

Brisbane Cabaret Festival


Jest Like Danny Kaye

Brisbane Cabaret Festival

Stage Door Dinner Theatre

3rd – 4th November 2012


Reviewed by Michelle Bull


My first experience of the brilliance of Danny Kaye was as a little-ly, sitting nose to screen with the 1952 hit movie Hans Christian Anderson. I remember being totally captivated by the stories told by this engaging performer, entranced by the popular tunes Thumbelina and The Ugly Duckling, and reciting the rhymes word for word. In fact it was the sweet little melody Inchworm that was the first thing I taught myself to play on Nanna’s electric organ. So joining the audience for Brisbane Cabaret Festival’s Jest like Danny Kaye on Saturday night I felt quite nostalgic, looking forward to hearing the songs that had so many memories embedded in their sweet and quirky little melodies.


Jest like Danny Kaye stars multi-talented and seasoned performer Russell Fletcher, who as a former world Impro champion and veteran to the stage and screen calls on his varied experience to bring to life the quirky genius that was the success of Danny Kaye.


Jest Like Danny Kaye

Accompanied expertly by Greg Riddell on piano, the duo journey through Kaye’s popular sketches, songs and routines with the ease of those who know their subject matter intimately, speckled with banter and audience participation that all enthusiastic cabaret audiences enjoy and in this case, relish to hilarious results.


Fletcher is a bundle of energy, scooping his audience up and encouraging us to “journey back in time” –time warp hands and all- to highlights of Kaye’s long and varied career. Opening with Kaye’s acrobatic comedy Symphony for Unstrung Tongue Fletcher manages the vocal acrobatics with ferocious energy and dexterity, that remains in full force through sketches from The Court Jester, The Liddle Fiddle, The Conductor and Tchaikovsky and other Russians to name a few.


There are opportunities for a rollicking good sing-along, and general silliness abounds. Fletcher gives great energy to the role, matched by Riddell and is a warm and infectious presence onstage, handling the furious pace of the show with ease. Barrelling through with no interval, the show’s seamless transitions make this piece wonderfully engaging from start to finish, no mean feat given the vast repertoire contained within. I found the scripted onstage banter between Fletcher and Riddell to be the only slightly clunky element to the show, despite rousing a giggle or two; it lacked the impulsiveness that was so rich in the rest of the material; most enjoyable were the moments where Fletchers quick witted response to the audience gave the show back the sense of spontaneity unique to Danny Kaye’s material and the genre. I also really enjoyed the interactive nature of Fletcher’s performance. This is a performer who develops a great relationship with his audience and this allows him to toy with them and engage them to great comic effect.


Jest like Danny Kaye made me feel like I was 7 years old again, enthralled by an engaging storyteller and wonderfully skilful and quirky material that will play on my lips and in my dreams for weeks. Fletcher is a force to be reckoned with and the show a gem for Brisbane Cabaret Festival audiences.


Danny Kaye’s timeless material transcends generations and encourages us all to stop taking life so seriously. In the words of the man himself…


  “Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint you can at it.

Danny Kaye




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