05 Jan 2012 / Random
08 Jan 2010 / Random
“Hi Nick – I let the porridge spill over this morning thinking about your show.”
Thus was my innocuous email to songster Mr Nick Christo the morning after I saw his delightful, delectible, delicious homage au Frances Faye: The Fabulous Frances Faye in Australia. That’s Faye I am talking about – the Fabulous. Don’t get me wrong I was being literal – referring to real oats on the real kitchen stove. As I stared out the window in my smoking jacket, fag hanging from my lips, and digging around for a leftover slurp through old grog bottles littering the kitchen bench.
Frances & her Friends
“I know a guy named Joey
Joey goes with Moey
Moey goes with Jamie
And Jamie goes with Sadie
And Sadie goes with Abie
And Abie goes with Davy
And Davy goes with Howard
And Howard goes with Charlotte
And Charlotte goes with Shirley
And Shirley goes with Pearly
And Pearly goes with Yetta
What a drag, what a drag
I’m not mad
I’m too hip to get mad….”
(From one of her classic songs: Faye would add lines depending on who was in the audience with whom…)
Not wild oats! Sown or otherwise. To quote that other soft bird, Doris Day, ‘No siree!’ Though of course I had been to the show the night before, this being the morning after, and I may well have been infected by Ms Faye’s penchant 4 innuendo – and straight up dirt talk. If I came across that way it was not intended – no siree.
Okay…shake it out….settle down…shut the window and get back to my usual ‘cool’ persona. As they say in the classics – if it’s so hot in the kitchen etc – like fried chicken – tell ever’one ’bout it. Yessir! If ever I saw fried chicken on stage it would have to be Nick Christo as Frances Faye – you just want a bucket full and get your fingers all greasy.
Anyway who said I don’t like show tunes? or showgirls/boys for that matter? I do – I just like good ones! So I was very pleased when I was guided by a colleague into Nick Christo’s celebrated cabaret act. It’s had seasons wide and far over the past couple of years, between Christo’s other work – like playing the Hungarian voice expert for the AO in My Fair Lady. And right now it’s playing varying nights at Downstairs Belvoir until 14 February.
Let’s get it straight up like a decent martini. This is no drag act: Christo creates his Frances Faye, the witty hardbitten showtuner who started life in an Al Capone Speakeasy, staying a bloke true-blue and wearing a decent black suit. His lyrical tenor voice and unfortunate looks sets him apart from the original Faye, sure. But he clearly grooves this marvellous American cabaret artist’s raw energy and sassy wit. He can do high notes and low notes, slow ones and fast ones, he can mix em up – just likeFrances. He can also stand still. And just when you think you’ve seen it all – he can shimmy!
I don’t know how to write about this kind of show. All I know is it was fun, and Christo is right across his subject and her material. There are three bandsmen – piano, drums and horn. All hot. And between songs and cheeky patter is a very neat history of Frances Faye’s visits to Australia – noteably to the Sydney niteclub Chequers which also guested Debbie Reynolds and Sammie Davis Jnr in its heyday. What’s really good about this show, as well as some excellent singing, is the precise characterisation of Faye – her essence – without excess. Her inner camp if you like. Bisexual and knowing, Faye carved out a new place in entertainment that was urbane and city-slick. She was the original dame who had been around. She could hold it back, and she could belt it out. Christo can too.
For Christo to transform this wild card from the entertainment industry into a ‘straight aces’ act is some feat. Yep, this guy is talented and you should get down to see him before he gets so famous you can’t afford the tickets – or be stuck in zed row behind a big hat behind a pillar in Carnegie Hall.
PS: You want to know more about Frances Faye – where else – go to Camp David!
PPS: Or more on Christo and this show – where else – go to Bryce Hallett!
For those who saw Kosky’s Poppea
christa hughes – naked voice
Culture is about context and two events recently could not expose this reality more clearly. Early last week I took in an opera at the Sydney Opera House – Manon Lescaut starring the beautiful Australian soprano Cheyl Barker. By week’s end I was kicking back in a converted warehouse (address not be disclosed online) in the inner west – Monsieur Camembert’s entertainment hideaway – enjoying another of our finest of song-birds, Christa Hughes.
I have had many excellent encounters with the Australian Opera including, a few weeks back, the Baroque Opera’s directed by Patrick Nolan. That said, I do love sliding up and down the greasy poles of genre and locale: so a gig in an unadvertised urban hideaway is the kind of event I enjoy equally. On this occasion, more so.
13 Jul 2009 / Videos
found by Susan Prior
12 Jul 2009 / News
A bit of a maudlin concept I know for whatever time it is at your place right now. But have to admit I have been having mortal thoughts. Not immortal: haven’t got that far yet. But after my time off I was hping to spring back into action – with all the bounce of a Farrah-Fawcett hairdo and the ski-slope lift-off (oops) of a Michael Jackson nose. But it’s not been so easy – promises of fast turnaround times for theatre reviews and maybe even knowing what day it is today. The Queen’s Birthday, Bastille Day? Naidoc Week etc…Not so easy, not so fast. I woz hoping to leave sad tales behind.
The ‘e-tist’ in one is sucked by the form itself into into pressure to reveal all- but one can’t – so I will be a cryptic as I can.
Let’s just say some old war wounds have – this but the latest round in my struggle to attain poetic supremacy over my flesh – have been flung open by the cold weather and my bones is been rattling. Waking up at night for hot baths and looking iin on the kitchen cupboard for ANYTHING that might help???
So I was very excited to wake up at 3am this morning to the sound of the song I want THEM to play at my funeral! I had always wanted Michael Jackson to Sing My Island Home as I was pushed off an Arnhem Land beach to be transmogrified by the still waters into a cut-off shark fin or the last surviving dugong.
Anyway I woke up to it in the dark last night – so dark I pushed at the lid and there I saw my two cats – Amos & Andy – staring down at me – like the flat itself – somewhat alarmed.
Turns out my Koori neighbour Freddie has invited the Warumpi Band to reform and do a set in his lounge-room. At this godly hour! We are into about the third song when I get up and go out down the stairs and figure it is the television. I heard it on the television! So I went back upstairs and turned on Rage..
Between three and seven am it is all Aboriginal music – I am happy – and I figure this is the ABC doing honour to NAIDOC (National Aboriginal Islander Day Observance Committee) Week.
Anyway I loved those four hours of music and the timing was excellent. There is only so much of The Slap you can read at that time of night without wanting to get out of bed, go down the stairs, out on the street, hail a cab, knock on someone’s door – and “SLAP THEM!!”
So music is better. And I have YouTubed – see below – just for you some of the songs I most enjoyed. I have selected for different reasons – from middle, junior and senior artists ranks.
I write all this by way of introduction to a CD that came to me in the mail a week or so ago from my friend Tim Bishop. He has been working with a bunch of others on this collection called Songbird Calling: Songs from Studio RCC – Redfern Community Centre. Like the group of songs I have selected below, there are a range of styles on the CD – and, to my close-minded bigoted surprise, I find myself again being quite taken by the rapper/hip-hop sounds from the young-guns. While obviously inspired by global models, these songs have a wonderful spirit of honest truth to them. Spunky not sexist, racy not racist, etc.
Basically this is a set of songs that have been put together from a range of talents who have joined in the action on offer at Redfern Community Cantre. For more on this neat grass-roots creative project go to this link on myspace – you can hear some the songs and even order a copy of the cd. Goddamn just make a donation – those kids are ‘doin it 4 themselves!’ Not everyone is a kid: Tim is growd up and his songs are always worth a close listen. His contribution – ‘Dubay Lullaby’ – is a very fine song. Of note too is ‘Flowers and Trees’. Here’s the story: “in 2007 Studio RCC ran a workshop with Wire MC and young people from Redfern Community Centre’s youth program. Reagan Carr’s rap about life on The Block as seen through the eyes of young kids, with later contributions from Nate Tang, Stevie Steve, , MC Likwid, and beats made by Wire MC, became Flower and Trees – an anthem for now and the future, and a highlight of Gathering Ground 2008″. There you have it.
Anyway after yet another hot bath, and having put aside The Slap (which is quite a steamy read) I must say it was great to have a really fun night wide awake instead of all the miserable shit that has been going on of late during this coldwet winter we’s r having. Lesson: don’t ever break too many bones or they come back to bite you when you are old. And if you do wake up in the middle of the night – hope to heck you’ve struck a lucky night of programing on the tele!
12 Jul 2009 / Videos
07 Jul 2009 / Videos
06 Jul 2009 / Reviews
I got thrown into my first week of seeing shows again with a whirling round of engagements. The highlights included the Baroque Operas, which opened the Australian Opera’s Winter Season, and a night at the intimate Vanguard in Newtown last Friday night where those who were there got to witness Paul Capsis at the height of his powers. To its credit, the Bell Shakespeare made an interesting stab at the somewhat elusive Pericles; and as mentioned in a previous post I had fun at James Galea’s Lying Cheating Bastard. During my time off I slipped into a few interesting shows: Elling is fabulous (so that’s three big hits in a row at STC – after Travesties and The Rain Stops Falling). I caught up with a very smooth revamp of Brendan Cowell’s Ruben Guthrie at Upstairs Belvoir. And dropped in on Steve Rodgers haunting and honest Savage River at the Stables. Note Elling plays Riverside for a few nights very soon.
My interest in opera is as ‘whole theatre’ and I do find it difficult to sit though poorly directed and designed shows unless the singing is in the Joan Sutherland order. So it was with great anticipation I went along to see what Patrick Nolan was up to – having now matured into an impressively capable and sophisticated opera director. I’ve missed too much of Nolan’s artistic journey not to be quite stunned at what appeared on stage last week. I wanted to the experience to be good, but I had no idea I was going to encounter, in my view, one of the most stylishly directed evenings of operas I have ever seen. Not that I’ve seen a lot. But enough to be prepared – at an aesthetic level – for anything by the Australian Opera: from the most visually banal and clichéd to kinda close to as good as gets. The company needs to sort this out at it moves forward – which it is probably doing with last week’s progressive appointment of Lyndon Terracini as its new Artistic Director
It is to the world of marketing we can credit the easily pronounceable Baroque Masterpieces; when really what we are seeing, before interval, are George Frederick Handel’s Acis and Galatea (1718) and, after interval, Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (1689). I understand Nolan has directed the Purcell previously, and this is a ‘reconsidered’ version. Coming up after interval, one presumes this – musically – is considered the superior work. I am told, from those who know, that it is. Nolan’s version is vividly theatrical with the troublesome third party (coming between the lovers), the Sorcerer, performed by Kanen Breed in a bold chararactisation suggestive of Amy Winehouse on a drug-fueled rampage. Be assured all such ‘radicalisations’ in the interpretation are deeply sourced: there is a whole history to this character as to whether it played by a man or a woman and, consequently, in what register. Here the male sings subversively high. Similarly, the characters at the end are washed out to sea. It is dramaturgically settling to know that these overwhelming images from Mic Gruchy defer to Galatea’s mythical status as the goddess of sea foam.
Both works are quite ‘static’ compared to most operas to follow in later centuries. And each is drawn, characteristically for the era, from mythology in the form of the Pastoral. In both productions, Nolan moves mountains to give these proto-operas a life on stage. In Acis and Galatea, literally so. In his informative program notes, Roger Covell notes that the ‘monster’ Polythemus (Shane Lowrencev) who jealously comes between the lovers – and ultimately separates them – is known to represent the volcanic Mount Etna. So when Acis is stoned to death, the reference is quite specific to the imaginative landscape of the narrative. Further, in the mythology of the surrounding countryside, the union of Acis and Galatea is physicalised to this day in a freshwater stream at the foothills of Etna – the Aci (or Jaci) – running in to meet the sea.
In a dazzling creative partnership with designer Gabriela Tylesova, Nolan’s idyllic landscape in Acis and Galatea is an all-white niteclub/art gallery opening. The look is absolutely chic and up-to-the minute, with the chorus as semi-interested bystanders watching the three-way love tragedy unfold. For a text that on the surface has all movement of lava flow long turned to stone, Nolan does a brilliant job in creating a faultless visual story board. Meanwhile, any opera designer of note needs a suitably exotic name – eg Luciana Arrighi. I mention Luciana, because she not only designed the films The Remains of the Day and Howards End, but also the costumes for Jim Sharman’s production of Benjamin Britten’s haunting opera Death In Venice (premiere 1980 Adelaide Festival). Despite their exotic nomanclature, both Arrighi and Tylasova are Sydney sheilas. But with names like that they are free to tap into the most profound traditions of European stage design. Whilst a 1999 NIDA graduate, Tylasova’s awesomely beautiful work declaims her Czech Republic origins.
When a director opts for such a theatrical staging, he needs singers who can act as well as sing. And Nolan is blessed to have Taryn Fiebig as his movie-star glamour girl Galatea. In a nice quiet way, Henry Choo as Acis, keeps up with her. Kane Breen, this time, as Damon (or in this version we might call him First Guest) plays in delightful counterpoint to Lowrencev’s fabulously monstrous Polythemus, a 190-centremetre louche who hits on every chick at the party before turning his uncontrollable desires on the most beautiful woman in the room.
The evening was put together by a truly consummate team. Not only was Anthony Walker conducting the ‘period instrument’ Orchestra of the Antipodes; we had Nigel Levings (lighting), Lucy Guerin (choreography) and Mic Gruchy on video design. Anyone who half knows their stuff would instantly recognize a formidable team. And so it proves to be. I will let others tell you if it was well sung. But with Yvonne Kenny as Dido – some of it had to be good! In a mark of respect to the art of the voice, Nolan’s production is pulled back as we draw to a close to let this great Australian soprano take us away. Heaven!
More on the other shows mentioned at the top of this story next time.
09 Jun 2009 / Videos
I know you are all missing me – so thought I would give you a liitle holiday treat
from my pal