A Night At The Musicals
Brisbane Powerhouse and Strut & Fret Production House
Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre
January 25 – 29 2017
Reviewed by Xanthe Coward
MELT Festival exploded onto the Brisbane scene this week with its iconic pastel inflatable icy poles, brightly coloured cocktails, stilettos galore, a glitter cannon and a wall of 100 naked men.
Joel Devereux’s FOODP*RN is a photographic exhibition of perfectly plated portions of nude males, all thoroughly enjoying an array of condiments and special treats. What I can only imagine was a series of very messy shoots, smothered in chocolate sauce, covered in milk and cream and popcorn, dripping with glistening syrup, shaking toffee apple maraccas, balancing buns on top of buns and grasping bananas as if their love lives depended on it. If you’ve been following this project on Instagram, you will have seen the admiration Devereux has for each of his subjects, and the care with which he has approached each shoot as a unique show-within-a-show, something that comes through in the final result. The figures, even those in repose, leap out of a whirl of colour with the energy of the unconcerned, completely comfortable with the brief and clearly proud to be a part of such a magnificent celebration of so much deliciousness. There’s a sense of mischief about the piece as a whole and in its parts is so much variety – something for everyone – and so much delight that I can’t imagine anyone standing in front (or above) the work without a smile on their face.
MELT celebrates queer art and culture, and not only those who identify as LGBT but those who support them. It’s Brisbane’s most diverse and original festival, flamboyant and genuinely friendly. I was proud to be a part of the program last year, appearing in Dean Bryant’s GAYBIES directed by Kris Stewart, with the likes of Bec Mac, Margi Brown Ash, Barb Lowing, David Berthold, Brad Rush, Christopher Wayne, Kurt Phelan and Lizzie Moore. You’ll see Moore (with Brad Rush on keys) return to the Powerhouse during MELT with her hilarious cabaret, On A Night Like This: The Erin Minogue Experience and Phelan in Kris Stewart’s exquisite Boys of Sondheim. Other MELT highlights this year include RENT, Hedwig 15, An Evening With Amanda Palmer and A Night at the Musicals. Cake Face, Queer Comics, Virtual Drag and the MELT Portrait Prize round out the visual arts component of the festival.
I wanted to get into musical theatre…so I became a drag queen.
– Jonny Woo
Jonny Woo and Le Gateaux Chocolat raise the bar with their cabaret show, A Night at the Musicals, a self-effacing, funny look at a few of their favourite musical theatre things. Given the extraordinary talent of its stars, this show has the potential to evolve into a much slicker and more sophisticated something, but perhaps this is not the intention – ever – within the world of drag. Is it? I don’t know. I just love Trevor Ashley’s new-found class, which he brings to his latest show Liza’s Back (is broken), and the precision and artistry of impersonators such as Simply Barbra / Steven Brinberg, as opposed to the original misogyny of ugly “tacky drag”.
Drag is for everybody.
– Jonny Woo
Perhaps it was RuPaul’s Drag Race or Priscilla, Queen of the Desert on stage, or Slide or the Butterfly Club, or Trashley’s latest work that’s helped to change the face (or the sound) of the drag scene here, but I had long been under the impression that even the most popular drag acts were lip syncs rather than singers and for me, no matter how good the lip synching, it’s not as satisfying as hearing a great voice live. Jonny Woo and Le Gateaux Chocolat have great voices, and when Woo indulges in some old-school lip synching, it’s highly effective. In the first instance we hear the ensemble of Les Miserables while he contorts his face and posture to mimic every single character actor in At the End of the Day and later, we hear Liza Minelli singing Mein Herr as Woo dons giant jazz hands and dances around and over an audience member seated in a cabaret chair centre stage. There’s nothing “ragged” about it, Woo is cheeky and carries out the original choreography with precision. It’s extreme clowning, the grotesque in a good way, and the statuesque Woo makes it both alarming and completely charming to watch.
Le Gateux Chocolat’s indulgence is different, giving us a shamelessly Star Wars inspired Phantom of the Opera and then a quick rundown on how Fantine comes to chop her hair off before he sings superbly, I Dreamed A Dream. In what becomes a running joke for the rest of the night, he runs the opening words together (no one ever really knows the intro, do they?) before getting to the bits that really matter. And let’s not neglect to mention a glorioius rendition of Let It Go, with Woo’s budget conscious SFX, absolutely hilarious. His voice is rich, sonorous, just beautiful, but whenever we begin to take him too seriously, he breaks the slightly more sombre mood and breaks into a fantastic scat or free dance until we have tears of laughter streaming down our cheeks.
Before the night is over we’re invited to offer suggestions and sing along to Summer Nights. There is no Funny Girl, despite hearing something from the soundtrack as we take our seats before the show. There is no Chicago or South Pacific orThe King and I or Singin’ In the Rain. No West Side Story or Oklahoma or Avenue Q. There is no Into the Woods or The Book of Mormon. No Aladdin. If you’re a serious musical theatre fan you might take the opportunity to shout our your suggestions during the requests segment of the show. You’ll be rewarded with an acapella excerpt of your preferred musical numbers. A Chorus Line complete with high kicks and The Lion King are the highlights for us.
In true, trusted Strut & Fret style, A Night at the Musicals offers a riotous evening in an intimate space, which we could easily enjoy again. If you haven’t yet come across Le Gateaux Chocolat or Jonny Woo – I just adore them both – this is your chance to discover a whole new beautiful world of quality high
class camp entertainment.