Posts Tagged ‘brisbane cabaret festival


The Unexpected Variety Show

An Unexpected Variety Show Jenny Wynter

The Unexpected Variety Show

Brisbane Cabaret Festival

Judith Wright Centre

7th November 2012


Reviewed by Stephen Moore


Well, if nothing else, the night is aptly titled!


Seated at a table for four (me, my guest and two strangers), sipping on a mind-altering beverage and enjoying the ambience as the audience gathered expectantly, it was a case of ‘what the…’ when the performance started!


Let me explain.


The promotional material states ‘…The Unexpected Variety Show sees musical comedienne, Jenny Wynter, meld stand-up, storytelling, song, improv and character comedy into a unique show about the unexpected twists in life…’, so to be confronted by five women dressed alike singing boogie-woogie was confusing.  It was a case of ‘what are the Andrew’s Sisters…plus two…doing in this show?’


Firstly, I have to say the singing was excellent.  Hats off, ladies, for bravely going acappella.  And adding a swing element.  Especially with such varied material (ah…so that’s where the title comes from? Unexpected. Variety.), ranging from wartime swing favourite Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree to modern classic Somebody That I Used to Know.  Yes, that’s right, the Goyte hit!  Sung in tight harmony and vocal percussion with a touch of swing – amazing.  Also cute were the matching costumes, reminiscent of 1940s army uniforms, as if designed by Chanel.


Betty and the Betties


Betty (Elysia Humphries), Betty (Simone Kelaart), Betty (Angeline Wynter), Betty (Kate Mackie), and Betty (Jenny Wynter) make up Betty and the Betties (although I had to go to their website via Jenny Wynter’s website to know that because there was no information at the venue.  I can’t acknowledge any technical achievement for the same reason.  I ❤ programmes!). Look out for these girls, and Jenny Wynter’s Wonderland, at Woodford Folk Festival!


An interesting and wide-ranging choice of songs take up the first 30 minutes of the program; however, the story, the banter and the patter between songs needs a lot more work.  And it wasn’t just me – the other three at the table felt the same and the less than enthusiastic response from the rest of the audience confirmed that it didn’t grab the attention (especially compared to the response to the second half – the real An Unexpected Variety Show).


Now.  What can I say about Ms Jenny Wynter that hasn’t been said already; and what can I say about An Unexpected Variety Show that hasn’t been said already?


It was as good as the review excerpts suggested!  It really did live up to the promo material…and yes, there is photographic evidence of the budgie-smuggling wedding-crasher!


This was cabaret with a strong message, a poignant and funny storyline, identifiable characters, and good music well sung.  We can all learn from this cabaret – about how life gets in the way of living, about the unexpected changes to our plans and hopes and dreams, which occur in an instant…and that sometimes it all still works out.  So seize those moments, embrace the changes, and keep looking forward. That’s what Jenny said to me.


Where the Wild Roses Grow



Where The Wild Roses Grow

Brisbane Cabaret Festival & Studio 37

SYC Studios

2nd November 2012


Reviewed by Emilie Guillemain 


It’s a Friday night and I’m walking down Manilla Street in East Brisbane. I’m on the hunt for SYC Studios and all the while I’m walking past quiet houses, businesses with bizarre names and thinking to myself…this looks like an interesting area to be staging a theatre performance. During Anywhere Theatre Festival earlier this year (registrations for 2013 now open!), XS Guest Reviewer, Sarah Knight, experienced a similar evening.


When I reach the studio I just have to smile. There is mismatching furniture spread out across the room, a balcony bar and people lounging about on couches with wine, listening to smooth music. The stage is doused in red lighting and there are rose petals on the studio floor.


The audience is here to catch Babushka, a dark and saucy cabaret performance exploring lustful tales of romance and murder. Before the show gets underway however, the audience are welcomed by 3 separate support acts.


First off was a gorgeous little band called The Pockets. If their name alone doesn’t already make you say “awww…”, then their tunes definitely will. The group delivered a few songs with a 1950s country/folk vibe. A perfect blend of acoustics, great voices (and towards the end, a touch of the kazoo!), will make you want to wrap a ribbon around the band members and tuck them in your pocket.


Then there’s the femme fatale, Ms Leah Shelton. She combines recorded sound with exaggerated movement and plays out a series of short death scenes set in 1920s America. The scenes had a real sense of film noir and took you right to the heart of the jazzy streets of New York and Chicago. Charmingly funny and a little bit mental, Ms Shelton was a delight to watch.


Last of the support acts was Bianca, a trapeze artist who walks on stage blindfolded and mounts a hoola-hoop hanging from the ceiling. The sound of a heartbeat echoes through the studio, faster, faster… To Build A Home by The Cinematic Orchestra begins to play as Bianca proceeds to dance with this circle in the air in silence. Spinning, twisting, wrapping her body around the hoop so elegantly. I sit with tears in my eyes from beginning to end.


With my heart having already overflowed, I eagerly await Babushka, and whilst a completely different style to the previous three acts, I am not disappointed.


Five women walk onto the stage. They front red and black sultry outfits, corsets, killer heels, and fine, pin-curled hair. A young man takes position to the side with the keyboard and the ladies burst into their opening number, which literally brings chills to my skin. They grab the audience from the get-go and once they wrap up the song, attempt to get more acquainted.


“What a delectable platter of people that have been served up to us tonight,” says one with fiery red hair as she looks around the audience daringly.


“I could take a bite out of each and every one of you…”


With such powerful voices, Babushka proceeded to stun the audience with renditions of songs by a range of artists including Nick Cave, Tori Amos and My Chemical Romance. Each explored the topic of murder, some tales of mystery, some of lust and love. Every now and then the violin would be brought into the mix, adding an extra touch of brilliance to the piano and opera voices filling the studio space.


It was Babushka’s cover of Foster the People that really took me by surprise, however. Delicately opening with the first few lines of Pumped Up Kicks, it was that moment where I was trying to determine where I’d heard this song before and once I’d caught on, I was thrilled by their cover of the wildly popular American hit of 2010. The song built with energy and power, from one woman’s voice to the five of them belting out the lyrics together.


Babushka effectively interwove stories using humour vs tragedy and pleasure vs pain during their performance. A sassy and witty slice of cabaret, Babushka was a highly entertaining piece of theatre presenting five extremely talented singers. They are woman, hear them roar.


Check out Babushka’s upcoming gigs, this weekend at Brisbane Powerhouse for the 2high Festival and next weekend on the Gold Coast!





Rumour Has It: Sixty Minutes Inside Adele

Rumour Has It: Sixty Minutes Inside Adele


Rumour Has It: Sixty Minutes Inside Adele

Brisbane Cabaret Festival

Stockholm Syndrome 

2nd & 3rd November 2012


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


The Adele Effect


“I just wanna make music…” Adele


Naomi Price Adele

Look, I didn’t disclose it before but Naomi Price is a friend of mine. And I don’t mind telling you, without any bias at all, that she is one of a kind. The girl is gorgeous, creative, clever and funny; she possesses an incredible voice and a versatility that means we’ll see her forever, Meryl Streep or Madonna style, and she is humble and hard working. Also, she’s met Cate Blanchett and frequently wears fabulous shoes that I covet, so it goes without saying really, that I’m a big fan.


Naomi’s new show, Rumour Has It: Sixty Minutes Inside Adele is exactly that. It’s sixty superb minutes of alternative pop star, Adele, from the inside out, guts and gags and all.


Respectfully donning a fat suit rather than a couple of pairs of Spanx, with trademark red hair on fire – this time it’s flaming, cascading locks by Dextress Hair Face Body – Naomi Price steps out of herself to become Adele before our very eyes…and ears. The voice is pure – no gravelly after-effect of smoker’s vocal damage here – and at the same time, it’s near enough to have us captivated and completely convinced. At times we hear a little vocal fry and the recognisable catches, cries, snags and sobs, as well as THAT LAUGH… but this is not just Adele. This is Naomi Price channelling Adele and it’s much more interesting.


Rumour Has It is the upbeat opening number, immediately engaging the full house (everyone is still sober so everyone can get the claps in!), and introducing us to the prowess of musicians, Michael Manikus and Jason McGregor, and the charms and extraordinary vocal versatility of Luke Kennedy, who sings backup, having received charts for the songs only a week before the gig. These guys make a tight outfit and they work seamlessly together to take Adele through her many hits. The next is Rolling in the Deep and it is during this number that we realise we weren’t mistaken; we’ve seen the mannerisms of Adele, her every gesture. And then we hear the speaking voice; it’s the Tottenham accent that baffled America when Adele spoke at the Grammys. The mimicry continues through razor sharp patter, which is co-written by Adam Brunes; it draws from the crowd delighted hoots, whoops and more laughter than I’ve heard from a single audience in a long time. With the additional brilliance of Brunes, known particularly for his marketing savvy at La Boite Theatre Company, the references to Adele’s upbringing, boyfriends and brand new baby boy are backed up by loads of research and the gags are genuinely funny. This is a show that would barely need recontextualising in order to achieve global success.


Naomi Price Adele

Outside of the patter, the songs are not so smile inducing. Well, c’mon, the woman’s written a heap of lyrics about “rubbish relationships” (actually, she says everybody assumes she’s miserable so she’s going to stop singing about failed relationships), and Naomi perfectly captures the heartbreak. Not during Someone Like You, as one might expect, as this is ingeniously re-appropriated late in the show into a tongue in cheek medley, comprised of My Heart Will Go On, Love on Top and Rehab (these are performed over three vamps and patter segments, showcasing Naomi’s potential to tour next, among other personalities, a Celine Dion cabaret cum tribute show), but during Turning Tables and Don’t You Remember. Now that’s a whole lotta’ heartbreak and heavy heartache right there. PURE PAIN. And Naomi nails it; we feel every pinch and scratch and below the belt punch in the guts. Again, the body language and gesture help us to take the journey; with head thrown back and hands out as if to steady herself, we are mesmerised by her Adele. Instead of destroying us completely by continuing down the same sad path, however, Naomi just as suddenly gives us her best Spice Girls impersonation in a Chasing Pavements mash-up. You have to see this number to believe it!


During interval the intimate space upstairs at Stockholm Syndrome becomes a hive of activity, as friends and industry types mingle and collectively rave; a sure sign that the Brisbane arts scene is alive and well, and that its community is flourishing and enjoying supporting one another more than ever. Also, that this show is a sure thing. It’s pleasing to note that nobody is faking the rave.


We come back from interval to more champagne and more surprises. Luke Kennedy gives us his rendition of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know. Honestly, Kennedy is the whitest black chick since Christina Aguilera and I’d like to see him do his own show next!


Following the aforementioned medley, featuring the hilarious Celine Dion impersonation, the perfectly poignant finish is Make You Feel My Love. Naomi induces smiles through tears and leaves everybody wanting more. I’m sure Naomi Price has what other performers wish they could get in a bottle, and what discerning audience members wish was more prevalent on our television screens. She’s a polished performer, bringing a whole lotta’ sass and her own style to the scene.


And it’s a tough scene. Cabaret is hard to pull off, y’all! To get the right blend of fun, self-deprecating humour, pathos and pure talent together to convincingly portray (and poke a little fun at) a woman like Adele is testament to The Little Red Company’s ability to break into the country’s cabaret scene with relative ease.


Rumour Has It: Sixty Minutes Inside Adele is set to propel Naomi Price on the meteoric rise to fame we’ve all been expecting, if only she can get it seen outside of Australia. With the contacts she and Brunes have between them, I daresay that day (or lively night) is not far away. Meanwhile, for those of you in Sydney and Melbourne, your chance to spend sixty minutes inside Adele is next!


Rumour Has It Slide



A Night at the Judy: Undies & Courtney Act at Brisbane Cabaret Festival

Brisbane Cabaret Festival

A Night at the Judy: Brisbane Cabaret Festival

The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

25th October – 11th November 2012


Reviewed by Meredith McLean


This was not an average night at the Judy. Everyone was here for one thing and for one thing only; the Brisbane Cabaret Festival. Starting on the 25th of October, there is still a chance for you to experience this great celebration of wit, charm and music that is cabaret. Bringing together a cornucopia of spectacular creations from Brisbanites and fellow Aussies in theatre. I was lucky enough to indulge in two wonderfully funny and contrasting performances on Saturday night.


Arriving while the night was still young, the valley was already buzzing with promise of a good time. On my way to the Judy I had already passed a man in a bear suit, two women dressed as some kind of sci-fi woodland spirit mash-up and either the second coming of the Holy Saviour, but more likely it was just a man dressed as Jesus. Nothing could faze me once I finally stepped into the foyer of the Judith Wright Centre. I was ready for madness.


And that’s exactly what I got.


Megan Shorey

Megan Shorey beaming with those manic, expressive eyes of hers has stunned us many times over with her past award winning works. So I had high hopes for her show Undies. Sometimes I wonder what deal she made with the devil to acquire a voice like that. It’s as if it has a persona all of it’s own. Really, there should be a spot on the flyer for it. “Undies by Megan Shorey starring Megan Shorey’s Voice!”


Note to self: Get in touch with the marketing team and suggest this to them for any of her future shows.


Undies starts off with the a touch of history. Bloomers, britches, pantaloons, pantihose, undergarments, you name it. The obvious starting point for a show of such matters. But then we divulge deeper into aspects I never thought of. It’s the kind of discussion between performer and audience when the moment Shorey preaches her thoughts you realise you knew this all along, just never consciously acknowledged it. There are some serious numbers too, though my favourite of her songs laments how you’ll never get spanked in Spanx. But you’ll learn all about that if you see the show.


Even the moments between the melodies embrace the hilarity of this production. Megan Shorey is someone who is naturally funny. In her face, her voice, she knows what to say and how to say it. But it’s as if she doesn’t even try. It’s as if we the audience are her diary and her thoughts that she shares with us are just coincidentally hilarious. Unfortunately, the show has to end but this does not mean there isn’t an encore. It is undoubtedly a show worth seeing. (Like all of Shorey’s work, this show is too good for one-season-only so you’re sure to see it pop up again. Keep an eye out for future show dates at a venue near you).


There was a brief lull before I had to head back into the fray. The lights, once more bright, guiding me to my seat and then simmering down to darkness for the next show to begin. It was the same stage, but somehow I was on a new planet.


Alien of Extraordinary Ability is a drinks in hand kind of adventure listening to Courtney Act tell us about her intergalactic travels to America and back. Courtney Act made her break back in 2003 on Australian Idol. From there she has climbed ARIA charts, rocked around the globe and even performed for Lady GaGa at her private party.


Courtney Act

This show is classic cabaret with contemporary twist. Beguiling us with anecdotes of Oprah, the highlife of West Hollywood and the dangerous fun of “Disgraceland” Even Dr. Phil crops up in this galactic conquest of hers.


Unfortunately the rhythm I’d felt with Megan Shorey was not the same with this second performance. Courtney Act did confess to us she had “a frog in my throat. He was a prince this morning…” but this does not excuse the occasional off-key tones I heard. The worst was during her rendition of Suddenly Seymour from one of my favourite musicals, Little Shop of Horrors, when she and the pianist (whom had a stunning and beautiful voice providing spectacular back vocals mind you) tried to harmonise the final verse. Somewhere in the beautiful mess of all that glitter, stage light and pulsing music, their voices just could not find each other. Instead, producing an awkward, stilting closing to the song. Otherwise the set list was perfect. Witty, funny, and Courtney looked fabulous dancing in her silvery extraterrestrial get-up.


Some of the jokes in Alien of Extraordinary Ability came off a little too blunt and forced. Courtney’s ad-lib at times threw me too. There was a moment when a couple of latecomers apologetically scurried to their seats and she asked, “Welcome to the show. Can I get you anything? A watch perhaps?” It just had a tone a touch too snippy.


Despite these brief but jilting moments the show was everything to be expected. Bright and buzzing, funny and raunchy, and thoroughly sequined. The show was a great cap to the night leaving everyone giddy and laughing.


You do not want to miss out on this celebration of feathers, jazz, sparkling costumes, loud voices and swanky piano players. Undies with Megan Shorey and Alien of Extraordinary Ability featuring Courtney Act, are not much more than a snippet of Brisbane’s Cabaret Festival.


The close is nearing – the  11th of November to be exact  – so make sure you get tickets soon.



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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