Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Tuxedo & The Little Black Dress, Sept 27, 2012 ***1/2

Book & Music by Stewart D’Arrietta & Louis Nowra
Chapel Off Chapel, Sep 27 to Oct 14, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sept 27
Stars: ***1/2
Version of this review published on Sunday, Sept 30, in Herald Sun.
Stewart D’Arrietta, Rebecca Mendoza

WE SEE FEW NEW AND ORIGINAL AUSTRALIAN MUSICALS and those that prosper generally have small casts and low budgets, as does The Tuxedo and The Little Black Dress by Stewart D’Arrietta and Louis Nowra.

It starts with a shock and in near darkness, with the frightening, thundering sound of a building collapsing and the terrified cries of Jack (D’Arreitta) and Anouk (Rebecca Mendoza) who are trapped in the rubble of a restaurant housed in the old ballroom of a grand, old hotel.

These seemingly incompatible strangers are forced into unwanted proximity and intimacy as they await rescue and suffer the aftershocks of the earthquake. (Strangely, this is the second show this week that is about an earthquake. See my review of DasSHOKU Shake!)

Original songs by D’Arrietta and Louis Nowra pepper the narrative as the relationship between the pair slowly develops into a kinship that thrives on adversity and is built on shared secrets and their individual stories of love, betrayal, joy and loss.

Peppering the narrative are D’Arrietta and Nowra’s original songs with a jazz flavour and latin beats, sung by two performers with very different vocal styles.

 D’Arrietta’s distinctive, husky voice is a dead ringer for US singer, Tom Waits, and his gruff, playful, cynical and impertinent Jack is strangely charming.

Although Mendoza’s acting is initially awkward, she is sassy as the uppity, disapproving Anouk, and accompanies her cabaret-style singing with some vivacious dance moves that make Anouk increasingly attractive and seductive, particularly during her song, Losing Myself.

Links between songs and dialogue are often clumsy and need some tweaking, because the couple falling in love at the end is sudden and improbable.

Nowra’s lyrics are wry and entertaining, and D’Arrietta playing sultry jazz on the grand piano is a treat, although the mix of live with recorded music is odd and some songs seem out of place, such as Zombie Dance.

The world created by director, Christopher Parker, is evocative and atmospheric, however there is an uncomfortable imbalance between the music, story and dialogue.

By Kate Herbert

Cast: Stewart D’Arrietta, Rebecca Mendoza 

Creative Team: Director, Christopher Parker; Music Direction, Philip Rex; Lighting, Anthony Bazz Barrett; Sound: Adam Burbury; Set:, Andrew Bellchambers

Song list
Anybody out there
Maybe it's a cruel cruel world
Ways of the world
Spirits in this room
We're still here hanging on
What women really want
Steamy Night in Savannah
Isadora's theme
Losing myself
When you fall in love
Zombie dance
No surprise
Don't give up on love
Game of love.
One step together

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