Sunday, 22 June 2014

Amanda Harrison, June 20, 2014 ****

Up Close and Reasonably Personal, written by James Millar
Melbourne Cabaret Festival
Chapel off Chapel, Prahran, June 20 & 21, 2014 only
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars:  ****
Review also published in Herald Sun on line on Mon 23 June, 2014 and later in print. KH
Amanda Harrison

The timbre and tone of Amanda Harrison’s voice is thrilling and spending a night Up Close and Reasonably Personal with her is to be treasured.

Has anyone else, like me, been holding her breath waiting for Harrison to reappear on a Melbourne stage?

With her flashing dark eyes, sassy presence and remarkable, soaring top register, Harrison is the ultimate musical theatre diva that Australia adored as Elphaba, the green witch in Wicked.

In this playfully confessional cabaret, she shares the cruel truth that a music theatre star’s life is far from glamorous and that she is pitied by loved ones for her poverty and frequent joblessness.

Witty, revelatory banter, written by James Millar, links Harrison’s repertoire of songs that ranges from cheerful to challenging, all accompanied by her inimitable musical director, Bev Kennedy, on piano.

Harrison reveals that, despite her apparent diva status, she shops at Target, wears tracky pants when at home with her children, and barely hides a seething resentment for the industry that chewed up her life, and for Wicked, the show that nearly ruined her voice.

Her vocal folds were not steel and she had to leave Wicked to save them.

Harrison opens with the cheery Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, then moves on to tunes that chart her story, including I’m Gonna Make you A Star, Let It Go and It’s Got To Be Perfect.

Kennedy intermittently interrupts Harrison, urging her to do something from Wicked, so she finally sings The Wizard and I in a phenomenal performance of character and song that marks Harrison as a star.

Harrison cunningly incorporates into another tune the final high notes of Elphaba’s glorious song, Defying Gravity, sending the crowd into paroxysms of joyful cheering, but it is pianist, Kennedy, who performs the ensuing, riotous musical parody of Defying Gravity.

As her cartoon alter ego, Hilda Krinkle, Harrison performs a delightfully mischievous version of Send in The Clowns, a vignette that highlights her ability to create and inhabit a character.

It’s time to see more of Amanda Harrison in Melbourne in intimate cabaret, musical theatre or perhaps somebody should cast her in a non-musical show? She can do anything.

By Kate Herbert

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