Acclaimed opera stars Jacqui Dark and Kanen Breen star in Strange Bedfellows, a cabaret situated in the realms of classic vaudeville with touches of comedic naughtiness . Housed perfectly at The Salon, a venue inside the Melbourne Recital Centre, the show follows Prancer (Breen) and Vixen (Dark), two poor reindeers, of course inspired by the current festive season, who have been let go from their boss, Good Old Saint Nick, and, are now, determined to find the true meaning of Christmas. The stagecraft used definitely affirmed the vaudevillian sensibility the cabaret wanted to create. The candlelit tables, the minimalist, but effective lighting and the racy attire all assisted in setting the tone of the piece – a bit off centre, and, a bit naughty…
Vixen is perfectly portrayed by Dark, delighting audiences as a liberated, vivacious gal, but, also, a woman struggling to forget about her steamy past with Saint Nick. It is in these more somber moments, where, as the lights dim, so does Dark’s Vixen, inviting the audience to follow her quest to find relief from her past, and learn from her mistakes. Dark also navigates through a challenging vocal load with great ease and proficiency, demonstrating amazing versatility that any singer would dream of having.
Kanen Breen captures the audience’s hearts as the energetic, effervescent Prancer. In the vein of a true vaudevillian, Breen’s comedic timing is very strong, many impromptu one liners becoming incredibly memorable. His solo song ‘Walking in Girls Underwear’ defines Prancer’s fun loving spirit completely; one of great contentment and quirk, as he anecdotes about being the only homosexaul reindeer riding the sleigh. Breen is also in fine voice, exhibiting lightness and control, never, ever compromising his voice, even by the brashness of his character choices.
Musical Director Daryl Wallis plays at the piano with great passion, contributing wholeheartedly to the playful vibe of the space. His opening song, with a title a bit too vulgar for this review, is hysterically truthful, encouraging us to fully embrace the holiday season.
But, aside for the camp and outrageous humour lies a really important message regarding what Christmas is about – togetherness. It was really refreshing to see this shift in tone handled so tastefully, turning, particularly the second half of the cabaret, into a reality check for audience members. The piece also features fresh, current political injections, allowing the audience to, in some respects, laugh remedically at the state of our global affairs, while, in others, recognise the desperate need for change.
Strange Bedfellows offers audiences a chance to immerse themselves in a world of hilarity, absurdity, and pure sexuality. However, in the midst of this madness, sees a piece that encourages the importance of not only Christmas, but, equality and acceptance. These bedfellows may be strange, but, by golly, they are brilliantly strange.