Operating since 2010, the Melbourne Cabaret Festival has grown to become the second – largest annual event of its kind in the world.
In its impressive seven – year history, some of the local and international stars that have graced the festival with their presence are Joey Arias, Trevor Ashley, Alana Conway, Dolly Diamond, Ginger & Tonic, Chelsey Gibb, Adam Guettel, Amanda Harrison, Melissa Langton, Elise McCann, Matthew Mitcham, and Naomi Price.
For 2017, the jam – packed, two – week schedule is as plentiful and diverse as ever, with a multitude of options to suit a wide variety of musical tastes. One of these acts, ‘Australia’s Boys of Motown’, is a delightful vocal trio dedicated to that distinctive American sound.
Based in Detroit, Michigan, Motown was a record label created in 1959 by Berry Gordy Junior. From the outset, drums, tambourines and other forms of percussion, underscored and defined the brand’s unique pop and rock beat.
Of the countless solo artists and groups Motown represented, they included Ashanti, Boys II Men, Toni Braxton, The Commodores, Bobby Darin, The Easybeats, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Sam Harris, The Jackson 5, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Queen Latifah, Martha & The Vandellas, The Pointer Sisters, Lionel Ritchie, The Supremes, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Mary Wilson, and Stevie Wonder.
As an interesting side note, the esteemed musical theatre professional, Bobby Fox, said of his three – year experience touring with the mega – musical, ‘Jersey Boys’ (based on The Four Season’s lives and career), the key guideline from that show’s management, was to play every performance for the audience like it was opening night.
Australia’s Boys of Motown, Vincent Hooper, Richard Swanson, and Barnaby Reiter, appear to have taken this positive mindset to heart as well. Their commitment to the hour – long set presented at Chapel off Chapel, shot high – energy to the rafters. On top of which, every tune had the added appeal of smart and sharp choreography. At times, it really felt like I was watching iconic television programs like ‘American Bandstand’, ‘Soul Train’, or ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’, authentically brought to life.
Dressed in era – appropriate dinner jackets, Hooper, Swanson and Reiter kicked off proceedings with hits like ‘Get Ready’ (by The Temptations), ‘Dancing In The Street’ (Martha & The Vandellas), and ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ (The Supremes).
From there, they changed costumes, performing a section dedicated to Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. Hooper, it has to be said, attacked “I Love You Baby”, a song known for its vein – popping high notes, with complete and utter command.
Later, the group powered through a Jackson Five medley featuring ‘Give Me One More Chance’, ‘A – B – C’, and ‘Blame It On The Boogie’. Reiter also showed off his exemplary keyboard skills, playing ‘I’ll Be There’, as Hooper and Swanson sang back – up.
Nice moments of audience interaction added to the overall party atmosphere.
Viewers were encouraged to clap their hands, dance, and sing along to several choices. The team also ventured into the audience and selected a lady, in this instance named Deidre, to join them up on stage. They immediately serenaded her with ‘My Girl’, and she took their saucy flirting all in good fun.
In a further segment, the guys discussed how the Motown legacy has influenced some recent artists, before launching into a series of tunes which included ‘Valerie’ (by Amy Winehouse), and ‘Happy’ (Pharrell Williams).
The show wrapped up with ‘Keep Me Hanging On’, ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘Oh, What A Night’.
With the chapel auditorium set up in the style of a Las Vegas showroom, guests were able to sit at any one of a dozen large round tables placed around the floor. It should be noted that at all times, lighting and sound were both impeccable.
‘Australia’s Boys of Motown’ is value – packed, high – concept entertainment, as slick as it is engaging. So, it comes as no surprise to learn this highly – talented group tours both land and sea around the globe, all year round.
Organisers of The Melbourne Cabaret Festival deserve a hearty round of applause for the providing the trio with an excellent platform to strut their stuff, as well as giving local audiences the chance to see the boys perform live and in person.