2015 has been a busy year for Michael Dalton.
Full of boundless energy with a quick wit to match, he is an experienced and accomplished performer on both the local and international entertainment circuits.
In January, Dalton played the historic Melba Spiegeltent as his fabulous female alter ego, Dolly Diamond. Located on site at the Circus Oz headquarters in Collingwood, “Dolly Diamond Under A Big Top” was a cheeky and energetic two – hour spectacular, featuring a multitude of singers, musicians and artists.
Then in April, “Dolly Diamond – The Real Queen of Moomba” was one of the delicious and naughty highlights from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
This was quickly followed by another dose of Dolly for “Christmas In July” as well as a return season of “Just The Three of Us”, with Dalton, Rachel Dunham, and Luke Gallagher singing a series of popular top forty hits. Both hit seasons played at Prahran’s beloved Chapel off Chapel, located in Melbourne’s south – east.
It seems fitting that this institution, currently celebrating its twentieth year, is host to a trio of brand new shows in quick succession from Dalton. Reinforcing both his versatility and stamina, all three productions could not be more different.
On the 13th & 14th of October, ‘Avery & The Exotic Bird Emporium’ is designed to entertain children of all ages.
Created by Gavin MacLeod, Dalton will pair up with Joseph Bootten, and voice the titular owl, Avery. (Thanks to the magic of theatre, it should be noted that Avery made a show-stopping appearance at “Dolly Diamond Under A Big Top”, singing a duet to “Wind Beneath My Wings” with Diamond herself.)
Then, later this month, ‘Bugle Boys’, co-starring Jon Jackson and Andrew Dessmann, will be a nostalgic and saucy salute to America’s legendary Andrews Sisters.
Lastly, Dalton is currently headlining the Australian premiere of “A Different Way Home”.
Written by the late English actor, teacher and prolific playwright, Jimmie Chinn, this work is by turns a deeply moving yet highly amusing tale about the stress and confusion of familial estrangement.
Similar in style, mood and structure to Alan Bennett’s award – winning television series, “Talking Heads” or Willy Russell’s heroic “Shirley Valentine”, “A Different Way Home” is divided into two powerful forty – five minute monologues.
Here, we are introduced to Leslie & Maureen Latchmore, adult siblings who have fallen out over the caretaking duties of their aged, invalid mother.
Throughout the course of the play, Chinn has woven many verbal clues and exposed family secrets into each part, helping audiences to understand how and why there can be two distinct sides to every disagreement. (Allowing us to hang on every key word, the production team must be thanked for their excellent sound engineering.)
The story is deceptively simple, in that Chinn’s words cross cut Leslie’s and Maureen’s shared anonymity, with subtle insights into their dismissive behavior and lack of self – awareness.
Like Gilbert’s “Shirley Valentine”, Chinn also appears to be celebrating the quiet lives of everyday people. Neither character is particularly glamorous. But we surely know someone like them, and that’s what makes them instantly relatable and real.
Perhaps this production’s biggest novelty and draw card is that Dalton acts both roles as older brother, Leslie, and younger sister, Maureen.
The team’s decision to head down this road is an inspired one. They have found the perfect vehicle to showcase Dalton’s maturation as an exceptional and legitimate actor. For fans familiar only with his cabaret resume, his work here is a revelation.
Grey – haired Leslie is slow, physically ill, and prone to rambling. Rebellious Maureen is much more spritely and animated. Each however, possesses a shared sense of humour that will keep audiences highly entertained.
Further, outstanding make – up and costuming in each instance make Dalton virtually unrecognisable. It should also be noted that Dalton and his crew only had the twenty – minute interval between each act to transform from Leslie into Maureen.
Smart lighting choices and clever staging by McLeod, consisting of antique furniture and simple props, will make anyone in attendance feel comfortable and welcome.
Under Zoe Warwick’s intelligent directorial supervision, Dalton has formulated two characters that could not be more different. Dalton’s brilliant timing, combined with Chinn’s sharp and considered dialogue, all hit the target to make this a memorable and immersive experience.
This is a technical and artistic triumph on every level, which leaves you wanting more.
Photo Credit: Betty Sujecki