Sunday, 2 September 2007
La Soiree, Melba Spiegeltent, Sept 2, 2007
Melba Spiegeltent, Northcote Town Hall Civic Square
Sept 2 to November 18, 2007
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sept 2, 2007
Burlesque and cabaret is revived in La Soiree performed in the Melba Spiegeltent.
The Melba, built in Belgium in 1910, is the second of these striking wooden, canvas and mirror tents to appear in Melbourne and is here to stay.
The evening boasts a three-course meal, circus acts, clowns, music, magic, drag and exotic dance. The style is drawn from German cabaret, vaudeville and new circus. Doug Tremlett’s casting and direction of La Soiree echoes the challenging and diverse shows at the Last Laugh in Collingwood before the Melbourne comedy scene descended into predictable stand-ups in pubs.
This is not just a washing line of acts strung together but a total show concept that delights the eye with its detail at every moment. The performers play waiters and kitchen staff and, between acts, characters visit audience tables, performing magic tricks, serenading, seducing or just serving food. Their task is to please their new owner, Madame (Wes Snelling) who is bored by the entertainment but delighted with the vodka martinis.
Veteran magician and cabaret performer, Sam Angelico, plays the Maitre D’ and host of the show. His magic, even up close at the table, is dazzling and his persona compelling. Jesse Griffin as the Spanish Waiter John Juan engages the audience with his wry commentary and an hilarious song about his father who burned to death at sea.
Christof Gregory plays Chef Otto, the pugnacious, demanding and intermittently jovial German chef. His plate balancing antics are charming and he skilfully makes his audience participant look incredibly talented. Fifi (Hazel Bock) accompanies her foot juggling of a table with cute French gibberish while Einstein (DJ Gardner), is a slapstick kitchen boy who can balance on his hands on tiny blocks but has trouble standing upright. His ground to air straps routine is thrilling.
Lola (Sue Ellen Shook) is a cheeky vamp wearing feathers, sequins and not much more. She has a seductive line in exotic dance while popping a few strategically placed balloons. Christy Shelper brings elegance and atmosphere to her breathtaking aerial rope act.
Madame, the surly new owner, gets her five minutes of fame when she sings Bohemian Rhapsody and a comical jazz version of Waltzing Matilda. Vlad (Justin Holland) on piano and Gernet (Jude Emmett) on accordion provide musical accompaniment for the entire evening, playing cabaret and circus tunes from the early 20th century.
La Soiree is top-line entertainment. Breathe in and enjoy the ride.
By Kate Herbert