by Nick Pilgrim
The Melbourne Cabaret Festival is one of the annual highlights of Australia’s national performing arts calendar. Since its inception in 2010, this prestigious event has showcased a long list of local and international artists such as:
- Joey Arias (in “Arias On Holliday”);
- Alana Conway (in “Songbird”);
- Rachel Dunham (in “Oprafication”);
- Matthew Hadgraft (in “Life In Inverted Commas”);
- Amanda Harrison (in “Up Close & Reasonably Personal”);
- Elise McCann (in “Everybody Loves Lucy”);
- Matthew Mitcham (in “Twists & Turns”);
- Alyce Platt (in “Someone’s Daughter”); and,
- Steve Ross (in “To Wit – Funny Songs Throughout The Ages”).
In terms of variety and public appeal, the 2021 season is no exception. With eleven exciting and vastly-different acts on offer, there is something of interest for every age and demographic.
One of my biggest joys in critiquing the event, is seeing new entertainers making a name for themselves on the professional scene. This year, for me that honour belonged to Thomas Currie.
A recent graduate of the Queensland Conservatorium at Griffith University, at only twenty-one, this is a young man on the ascent.
A determined self-starter, Currie already has a solid list of performing credits to his name. It should also be noted that “Basically Nocturnal” is the second work he has produced, written, composed and fronted. (His solo debut, entitled “The Curtain Rises”, had a successful sell-out season in 2018.)
Expertly backed by Stacey-Louise Camileri (on synthesiser and piano), Ben Ingarvson (on drums), and Ceridwen McCooey (on cello), Currie has styled a cabaret experience which is both accessible and elegant.
This hour-long act featured a varied range of classics such as:
- Music Of The World A Turning;
- The Stranger / Fever;
- The Wind Beneath My Wings / My Heart Will Go On;
- The Dream;
- Dreamers / Made It Through The Rain;
- Mr Tanner;
- Tenterfield Saddler; and,
Currie’s carefully-considered set list, not only highlights his rich baritone singing voice and emotional delivery, he is also responsible for their arrangements, original compositions, and overall music direction. (Very much a mood piece, it should be noted that Joshua Bliss created the show’s soundscapes as well).
Each tune is connected by a series of humorous tales and anecdotes about the trials and tribulations of being a night owl. A natural story-teller, Currie understands the art of pacing, maintaining viewer appeal throughout. (At times I was reminded of the gracious U.S. stand-up comic, Mike Birbiglia, and his breakout show, ‘Sleepwalk With Me’).
Atmospheric lighting and intelligent sound design cues gave the experience a supper club quality reminiscent of legendary venues like Kinsellas in Sydney or 54 Below in New York City. An immersive and satisfying journey, no detail was left unchecked.
Blessed with matinee idol looks, relaxed charm and star quality to spare, Currie could be destined to join the likes of Australia’s musical theatre leading men such as David Campbell, Bobby Fox, Simon Gleeson, David Harris, Stephen Mahy, and Josh Piterman one day. I look forward to his next project with keen interest.