Wednesday, 1 June 2005

Boulevard Delirium, Paul Capsis, June 1, 2005

Boulevard Delirium  
Concept by Barrie Kosky  Malthouse Theatre
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse  June 1 to 26, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on June 1, 2005

Paul Capsis certainly wowed the opening night audience of Boulevard Delirium. They stomped and stood and called for two encores.

The show, first staged in 2001 at the Vienna Schauspeilhaus, bears the unmistakable stamp of director, Barrie Kosky.

Boulevard is a musical cabaret with Capsis, Australia's most unusual drag act, performing chanteuses of the 20th century in front of a band of five versatile musicians.

Capsis's impersonations are not pure imitation, although his vocal skills replicate Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday and Marlene Dietrich impeccably. It is more the spirit of these damaged women that he captures.

Kosky has Capsis interrupt his characterisations with grotesqueries, local references and mad antics that make the show a marvellous soup of eccentric styles.

Costume changes are minimal. Capsis begins in top hat and tails. With each character he shifts his hair up or down, adds a headband for Marlene, hairpins for Garland. He puts a flower behind the ear rolls up sleeves for Holiday or tosses his white shirt rakishly off his shoulders to play Joplin.

The changes between characters are swift and inventive.

He begins with a few numbers as his own character, Queenie. Get Away, an 60s disco tune looks like the Hot Gossip pole dancers. Fat Daddy is probably the raunchiest tune of the night.

As Garland, he roves the stage in her later life signature drugged and drunken state and sings warped and despairing versions of Putting on the Ritz and Forget Your Troubles.

He drags his face into a grotesque parody of a bad face-lift as Marlene while he sings Boys in the Back Room.

There is a Soul Sister in the middle of the show who was not clear - perhaps Aretha. Then we saw the apex of the evening; Capsis as the doped and mesmerising Billie Holiday singing Don't Explain with poignant beauty.

As Joplin he tore up the stage and hit his rock and roll peak singing Don't Turn Your back on Love.

The band of five was exceptional, setting the tone for the songs and characters, squeezing sounds from not only the usual guitars, keyboard, bass and drums but from piano strings, singing saw, accordion and violin.

Musical Director, Roman Gottwald, leads Chris Bekker, Geri Shuller, Tom Fryer and Niko Schauble in a romp through contemporary styles with exceptional skill.

Boulevard Delirium is an exciting and energetic evening that showcases the talent of Capsis perfectly.

By Kate Herbert for 2 pages:

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