RAW: Pasek and Paul – Cabaret Festival

The musical business is a cut throat world but Benj Pasek and Justin Paul appear destined to be the next big things to hit the genre.  Having absorbed the New York style, from Bernstein to Sondheim, these two young performers are now racking up the successes and gathering the new generation’s acclaim along the way.

This show was pure New York entertainment (that is after all their home town), both effervescent with an almost school boy like enthusiasm that quickly infected the crowd. Many in the premium seats were much less aware of them and their wares to date than those with the concession passes but for them, these two guys are where it is at.

The show benefitted greatly from two guest appearances – the first, with encore by Shoshana Bean and the second by Liz Callaway, both singing Pasek and Paul songs from past and future musicals.  They (with their song sheets and use of a music stand) and the P & P banter (where both seemed comfortable talking over the other) were able to create an informality and warmth to the show, though there was no doubting this was all well rehearsed and supremely well executed.

This show was a joy and one of the highlights of the entire Festival.

Kryztoff Rating 4.5K

RAW: The Geiger Sisters Radioactive Hour – The Promethean

Floozy June (Charlotte Mudge), love-cynic Jean (Bronwyn Gell) and desperate-housewife Joan (Rachael Kirkham) Geiger, are three sisters who, ably supported by their ever-enthusiastic (and possibly intoxicated) cousin Gertie (Carol Young), present an evening radio show in the years following WWII. As the studio audience, we get to see what goes on, both on and off air, the night the radio station is sold and the girl’s careers are on the line.

The key element to the radio show is music and, accompanied by Gertie, the sisters sing about life, love and their world. All four performers have strong voices and while combining on several songs to create attractive harmonies, accurately reminiscent of the time, they are also given the opportunity to shine individually with feature numbers. In addition, the physical action, which could easily be left by the wayside in a radio based piece, provides much amusement and showcases the performers’ talents.

The overarching structure of the show works well; enabling both a continuing plotline to run throughout while also providing opportunities for amusing individual sketches. The Life and Times of Fanny Mac is one such piece; a radio play, complete with coconut horse hooves and some truly hilarious one-liners. Other highlights include the various advertisements smattered throughout, particularly those for the major sponsor, Dr Cardwell’s All Purpose Elixir, and that beloved Aussie icon, the Hills Hoist.

This is a well constructed and polished piece of entertainment, with comedy and musicality in equal measures, and fine performances all round.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

RAW: Bird Wizdom’s Tiny Conspiracy – La Boheme

To think it is but three months since Anya McNicol-Windram produced that 5K extravaganza at the Fringe and here today we have a whole new show. Amazing output and determination! This time, Bird’s Wizdom’s Tiny Conpsiracy, features a much smaller entourage – a mere seven people participating – and in the much smaller La Boheme venue. Whereas previous shows seemed to have been anchored around a dispassionate Melanie Prior on cello, this time Anya is very much front and centre and as usual her talent, make-up and charisma carried the day.

Around 12 new songs are in the show, many with the familiar and engaging rhythm and beat we have heard on the Bird Wizdom album and with those lyrics of abandonment and envy that can inspire reactions from hilarity to emotional outpouring. ‘Tea Tea Tea’ and ‘Georgie Porgie’ stood out in this collection as Anya utilised many of her usual helpers including Lilly Sim belly dancing, Annie Siegmann on Bass and Josh Luke Rice as Dr Bones.

As usual there were as many questions posed (like, what is this all about?) as answered but nothing can deny Anya’s brilliance in conceiving and executing such a show and the raw difference it poses for audiences.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

RAW: Frisky and Mannish – Cab Festival

This show is great fun. Felicity Fitz-Frisky, in school mistress black, and Hansel Mannish, in a somewhat camp outfit that featured some leather trousers that begged the question as to how they get put on or removed, provide the most polished of performances.

While the notion of making fun of singers and their lyrics is not new, this English pair, through their School of Pop approach, give a more contemporary spin on it drawing on such things as how English literature classics inspired and smoking cannabis affected song writing. From Kate Bush to Lady Gaga, no one targeted much survived the expose. Quite whether all this crowd got all the jokes is unclear – the standard Adelaide cabaret crowd seems rather older as a rule than the fringe humour audiences this pair would have been used to.

Nonetheless, with some patter about Adelaide’s sad rivalry with Melbourne, superb comic timing and never let up intensity, Friksy and Mannish make for a great hour of entertainment whether or not one would describe it as true cabaret.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

RAW: High School Cabaret – Cab Festival

The reality of the ‘world premiere’ of High School Cabaret, featuring creative arts students from Seaview and Norwood Morialta High Schools perhaps did not live up to the hype of the billing. However, after an uneasy start, some real potential stars started to emerge – four in particular stood out.

Year 10 student, Sam Trenwith took to the stage and the microphone with the competence, composure and charisma to suggest we have another highly talented individual in the wings to fully emerge on the local theatrical scene. Beautiful Mel Pal drew attention in her attractive black dress and with increased strength and confidence in her voice has the potential to be a real star in the making. Amongst the many dancers, Tyson Nunn’s crump gyrations, complete with grasped groin, suggested an athlete capable of mixing it in any of the myriad forms of modern dance available. Finally, Sheridan Deslandes dominated proceedings with her various acts but particularly her rendition of Chain of Fools. Her confidence and desire to command her audience was impressive for one just in Year 12 – another Queenie Van de Zandt or even Natalie Cole in the making.

High School Cabaret was an ambitious project. There are so many performers nowadays who can dazzle at the youngest ages and hence one’s expectations of the ‘world premiere’ were set high. However, this town has developed such a reputation for young artists of all kinds – the music industry in particular – that ensuring projects like this get going and offer up opportunities for both the students as well as for audiences to see stars in the making is important, so well done to all involved, especially the two schools and the Cab festival organisers for committing to such a night.

Kryztoff Rating 3K

RAW: Sex & Crime with Fraulein Antje – La Boheme

Amongst the lush surrounds of La Boheme, the audience settled in as Chris Martin, on upright piano, played a delightfully jazzy introduction and Antje Guenther took to the stage. Guenther will be familiar to Adelaide audiences, having appeared in recent plays with State Theatre Company, but this is her inaugural solo appearance on the Adelaide Cabaret scene.

The audience was taken on a light-hearted expedition through a dozen or so songs fitting under the banner of “Sex & Crime”. These were frequently amusing, with laughs abounding during To Keep My Love Alive, I Got It From Agnes and I Hold Your Hand in Mine, while at other points they explored both the more risqué and serious sides of the theme. Adding to the variety, several of the pieces (as well as a rather amusing story explaining the birds and the bees to young children) were presented in Guenther’s native German.

The quality of the singing varied across songs. Those in the higher register, such as Die Lotusblume and Barbara Song, were more successfully produced while the lower, throatier songs tended to be a little flat. Nerves also appeared to contribute to these issues at some points. Happily, the banter between songs was pleasing and genial – an exhibition of Guenther’s acting talent – and this helped to offset the abovementioned problems. Despite its flaws, this was an agreeable, cheeky and amusing afternoon of entertainment.

 Kryztoff Rating  3K

RAW: The Lonely Man By Jamie Jewell – Format Space

Jamie Jewell is extraordinary in this one-man cabaret show exploring loneliness through abandonment, unrequited love and not fitting in. The Format Space is the ideal venue for this intimate production and together this one man’s isolated yearnings, despairs and hopes draw out his audience’s empathy before its shocking conclusion.

Jewell is a highly skilled and experienced performer with a professional dance and theatre career spanning more than 20 years with credits in productions such as CATS, Moulin Rouge and Le Grand Macabre. This record shows as he most skilfully works his modest props to full effect – dice, scattered playing cards, plants in tins, stuffed toys and the like. Jamie’s singing is strong and his songs span all genres with a particular emphasis on classics – hymns of hope, then of reflected joy and finally anthems of total dismay. The performance is much enhanced by excellent use of light.

This is very different cabaret, more theatre than a jolly sing-a-long or another burlesque excess. At close quarters it makes for a memorable experience. Further shows on June 22, 24 and 26.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

RAW: Stevl Shefn and His Translator Fatima – La Boheme

This is a comedy show with a difference – the comedian, Stevl Shefn (Steve Sheehan), never utters an understandable word for the hour he’s on stage. Instead, he interacts with the audience in two ways; via his monotone, burka-clad translator Fatima and through the inspired physical comedy present in both his and Fatima’s demeanours.

To refer to this show as “cabaret” is stretching the truth a little; though there are a few song-based interludes, I don’t know that you’d call any of them a musical number. Having said that, it does provide one of the more interesting duets you’ll come across, as well as a chance for you, the audience, to engage in a sing-a-long in a “foreign” language.

Covering subjects as wide ranging as the intricacies of thesis writing, interspecies relationships and rainbow-chasing, you never know which direction the show is going to take next. The beauty of it is in the absurd places it goes and the pace at which it does so.

The material comes close to crossing the line of decency several times but, somehow, the calm no-nonsense voice of Fatima manages to keep it on the right side (just) and make it even funnier. Stevl and Fatima have been around for a few years now, popping up during Fringe Festivals (winning this year’s Adelaide Fringe award for best comedy) and the like, and although those who have seen them before may recognise some of the jokes there is also new material to enjoy.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

RAW: Tim Rogers – Festival Theatre

Reviewer – Jenna Munday

Superbia, Avaritia, Luxuria, Invidia, Gula, Ira, Aceda. Or, if you don’t understand Latin- Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy and Gluttony. Yes, they’re the seven cardinal sins, or Saligia, and Tim Rogers was in town recently to explain them all.

Running for three nights as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Tim’s show Saligia captivated me for the show’s entirety. Taking us through and singing about the seven deadly sins, Roger’s had the packed out audience in awe. This man can perform. He’s charismatic and funny, making jokes about the fact that he did go to school, football teams and asking that all important question, “why did Big Star close?”

In a show put together especially for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Rogers’ seven piece band, featuring Xani Kolac, Ben Franz, Iain Grandage, Ian Kitney, Shane O’Mara and Melanie Robinson, shone. The stage was filled with candelabras giving a very European feel and humorous and quirky illustrations depicted Rogers’ punishment for committing the sins spoken of.

This show deserves to be performed outside of the three date Adelaide Cabaret Festival. I hope Mr Rogers performs it around Australia because it is a truly wonderful seventy-five minutes of art.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

RAW: Why Muriel Matters – La Boheme

An interesting piece of cabaret theatre, this tells the story of local woman, Muriel Matters, who left Australia at the beginning of the twentieth century to become an actress in London. After at first progressing in this area, she finds herself drawn to the Suffragette movement, joining the campaign to win voting rights for British women.

Presented primarily as a monologue by Muriel (Teresa De Gannaro) we follow her from the streets of Adelaide to bustling London and then all around the British Isles as she takes the message to the people. The storyline is interspersed with various songs; of the time as well as new compositions by writer Sheila Duncan.

De Gannaro does well in the role, embodying Muriel with a likable enthusiasm for life and social change. Her performance is not flawless – some lines were stumbled over – but she has a fantastic singing voice and a vitality that makes up for this. Ably supporting her is Carol Young, providing piano accompaniment and pleasing harmonies in several songs. She also inhabits the other citizens in the story, moving seamlessly from one character to another.

This show is, essentially, a history lesson, but one that is pleasurable and appealing. Despite her being Adelaide born and bred and having played such an important role in history, few people will have heard of Muriel. This piece offers a brief overview of her life, which informs the audience about this remarkable woman and why she matters.


Kryztoff Rating  4K