Dolly (Eloise Cassidy) and Diablo (Max Bimbi) were serving country camp all night long. The wigs were quaffed; boots up high, jeans skin-tight and Dolly’s assets were out to play. Innuendos were flying out of every orifice and always landed right in the laps of the audience members. This Double-D duo is a knockout.
Walking up the stairs of The Butterfly Club you can hear the faint camp greetings of Diablo; “Hai y’all, welcome”, and you know you’re in for a fabulously, sassy evening of entertainment. Eloise and Max have a great connection on stage which fills the room with energy from the outset.
Eloise’s connection with the character is exceptionally genuine. In one moment she laughed and stopped a song, which had me questioning whether she was laughing because of something that had happened unplanned. When you have the audience questioning the reality of scripted and rehearsed moments, you have truly created a well-rounded, believable and honest character.
Max Bimbi as Diablo is a fabulous sidekick. A camp, flirty, Dolly obsessed fan on the hunt for his man down-under. As a fictitious character, he fits in perfectly and feels like an extension of Dolly in a cute gay boy’s body- He’s her spirit animal companion. Max plays Diablo adorably awkwardly and deviously dirty, providing the perfect sly sideline comments, enhancing Dolly’s more straight-edged comedic style.
Attention to detail with the music was a delight. How fantastic to hear a 3-part harmony in a cabaret. Thank you Stephanie-Jane Lewendon-Lowe for your wonderful arrangements and accompaniment on stage. Curtis Riordon’s silky smooth guitar and banjo playing deserves mention too, backing up Dolly and Diablo with authenticity and class.
Eloise’s voice is superb with a great understanding of the country style and has the technique to back it up. Both actors have a fantastic command of quite a tiring accent, which rarely falters. At times, the balance of sound was an issue as some backing “ooh’s” were inaudible – or perhaps Diablo was simply pouting and swaying silently in the back – which wouldn’t surprise me. Max does however, have his moment to shine and show off his voice and fluid hips, with a nice LGBTI pride song thrown in there.
The lighting design is somewhat underwhelming and unsettling with seemingly random shifts during songs that add nothing to the mood of the show. Although The Butterfly Club is an intimate, relatively small space, lighting it effectively can drastically impact on the relationship between the actors and the audience.
This cabaret is thoroughly enjoyable and is a pleasure to watch and listen to, yet I didn’t leave completely fulfilled. I can pin this down to what I demand from these “iconic” themed cabarets. On reflection, I didn’t leave Double D with a greater knowledge of what makes Dolly Parton such a revelled star. In fact, I left with effectively the same knowledge I gained from 9 to 5 (the movie and the musical) and the Wikipedia introduction. I yearned to be taken on more of a journey and to learn the secrets behind the big bleached hair and bust. I left The Butterfly Club still laughing and humming Dolly’s classics, and perhaps that was the end goal, but I have an inkling that both Cassidy and Max would hope I’d taken away something more.
Whilst this cabaret may seem tacky and artificial, it is a wonderful exploration of Dolly Parton’s misjudged life- beneath the camp, tacky, and cheap country surface, there’s the story of a true, big-hearted woman with talent to boot. Don’t judge this backwards Barbie by the cover because you’ll miss out on a night of laughs if you do.