Saturday, 26 March 2016

Velvet, March 24, 2016 ****

Created by Craig Ilott
Presented by Organised Pandemonium, Melbourne Comedy Festival
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, until April 17, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also on Herald Sun Arts web page, Fri March 25, 2016.   KH

 Marcia Hines in Velvet
Hearing sultry Marcia Hines singing 1970s Disco hits sounds good enough but the addition of startling circus feats transforms Velvet from concert to cabaret spectacle.

The show, directed by Craig Ilott with musical direction by Joe Accaria, features a series of musical, dance and circus acts threaded together by a slim narrative.

A geeky bloke (Brendan Maclean) stumbles into a disco nightclub – loosely based on the hedonistic Studio 54 in New York – where he is confronted by a seductive world of glittering lamé, mirror balls and mildly transgressive behaviour.

Hines is commanding, elegant and voluptuous when she appears about 30 minutes into the show singing Never Knew Love Like This Before when her warm, honeyed tones, impeccable vocal control and bright timbre send the audience into paroxysms of disco delight.

She follows the crowd favourite, Craig Reid’s audacious, hilariously cheeky and camp hula hoop routine in which he wears tummy-hugging pink and yellow lamé and whirls hoops around his plump, sassy body to disco hit, Shake Your Groove Thing. He looks like a human slinky!

Hines reappears to deliver consummate versions of You, Enough Is Enough, It’s Raining Men, Last Dance and other hits.

Maclean’s versatile voice complements Hines well in their duets and he engages the audience with his passionate singing of If You Could Read My Mind, Thinking of You and a poignant, solo version of Stayin’ Alive on ukulele.

Marcia Hines & Brendan Maclean in Velvet
Accaria’s disco mixing and drumming are highlights and the singing chanteuses, Chaska Halliday and Rechelle Mansour, are vivacious and accomplished singer-dancers.

Mirko Köckenberger uses a cunningly new context for a handstand act, depicting a bellboy balancing on suitcases while he strips to disco hit, Le Freak.

Emma Goh’s aerial acts are sensual, graceful dances in the air while Stephen Williams, with his chiselled musculature, defies gravity and human limitations on aerial straps.

Overlaying a narrative onto circus/cabaret shows is always a fraught business and, in the production, the narrative, its related scene transitions and Maclean’s geeky character with his awkward physicality and ham acting are weaknesses.

The S and M club scene attempts to look raunchy but ends up a cheesy parody of bondage while Maclean’s character emerges in feathers and lamé like an escapee from Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

Ultimately, Velvet is an exhilarating cabaret show that will titillate some and entertain all.

By Kate Herbert
  Marcia Hines & Cast in Velvet
Director Craig Ilott
Musical director /mix master Joe Accaria
Marcia Hines
Brendan Maclean
Stephen Williams
Craig Reid
 Mirko Köckenberger
Chaska Halliday and Rechelle Mansour

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