The Melbourne Cabaret Festival is one of Victoria’s mid – year entertainment highlights.
Since beginning six years ago in 2010, the popular event has featured a diverse array of rising talent and popular artists such as Joey Arias, Amanda Harrison, Matthew Mitcham and Elise McCann. For its seventh jam – packed season, the 2016 edition showcased almost forty local and international acts.
In an impressive career, America’s Steve Ross has played high – profile Manhattan venues including 54 Below, The Algonquin Hotel, Birdland, Cafe Carlyle and The Rainbow Room.
Dubbed the ‘Crown Prince of Cabaret’ by The New York Times, his one – man act covers songs from musical icons like Noel Coward, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and Cole Porter. In addition to performing as a sought – after cabaret artist and teacher, Ross has also starred on Broadway in ‘Present Laughter’ and in the hit movie, ‘Big’. Last year, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Honour for his work at the prestigious Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs (MAC) Awards. (Previous recipients have included Betty Buckley, Rosemary Clooney, Liza Minnelli, Barry Manilow, and Stephen Schwartz.)
‘To Wit – Funny Songs Throughout the Ages’ is a sophisticated and hilarious master class in content, style and execution.
For sixty joyous minutes, Ross gave the enchanted audience at Prahran’s Chapel off Chapel a musical education to remember.
Dressed in a smart dinner suit and seated at a baby grand piano, Ross spoke – sang fifteen carefully selected tunes and ditties from, as he put it, ‘The Transatlantic Golden Age’. These musical comedy gems written mostly in the 1920s and 1930s, either well – known or rediscovered, were respectfully presented as they had first been performed.
Cabaret recreated in the authentic sense, this show was far less about Ross or his personal journey, and more about a passion for smart composition. However, he did let us in on an amusing trade secret. To write a show, remember the following four key points:
I was in love.
I am in love.
I want to be in love, and…
New York, New York.
Many of these tunes were delightfully tongue – twisting, to say the least. But with urbane charm to spare, Ross let us in on the joke. Supper club audiences from almost a century ago must have thrilled in the songs they were hearing. Many of the lyrics were risqué for their time, and these songs simply drip with wickedly clever double meanings. Modern audiences will also be rewarded for paying close attention. If nothing else, for wondering how these writers slipped by the censor’s red pen and got away with it!
Some of the show’s tuneful highlights included ‘The Dolphin’ (by Ann Crosswell & Lee Pockriss) ’Hungry Women’ (by Turk & Ahlert), ’Tale of the Oyster’ (by Cole Porter), ‘Mrs Worthington’ (by Noel Coward), ‘Three Penny Things’ (by John Wallowitch), before finishing up with ‘Let’s Do It’ (by Cole Porter).
However, the evening’s festivities didn’t end there. Ross even entertained viewers with a fairy tale and a handful of cheeky personal ads as well. As one happy punter afterwards summed up the experience, “I could have listened to him all night!”
Ross continues this whirlwind Australian tour in Perth & Sydney.
Check his website at steveross.net/stevedates.htm for dates and locations.