In case you’re not aware, there’s an image of a strawberry dipped in chocolate currently being branded about Melbourne. For anyone who has seen the image, this indulgent, delicious, feast for the senses is the new calling card for the Melbourne Cabaret Festival.
Presenting 30 new shows never before seen in Melbourne, the festival is ‘keeping it fresh’ this year by featuring acts who have not previously performed at the festival. There promises to be something for all!
Chapel off Chapel has been transformed from a raked seating floor-stage to a cabaret saloon, complete with a raised stage and tables and chairs for the audience to sit at, allowing for a more social and laid back atmosphere.
A Capella groups Suade and Ginger and Tonic have teamed up to present A Match Made in Harmony. Both are established music acts in their own right and boast national and international credits between them. The members of both groups have varied slightly over the years, and the current line up includes Laura Burzacott, Stefanie Jones, Jane Patterson and Emma Rule for Ginger and Tonic and Chris Blain, Loz Blain, Sava Djukic and Luke Stevenson for Suade.
All of the songs are written by members of the groups, apart from one Dolly Parton song (‘Potential New Boyfriend’) and a medley of love songs that made up a finale. The content is generally clever and witty and explores the traps and pitfalls of looking for love as a single in the modern world. The songs weave seamlessly in through the dialogue with some kind of vocal percussion or “elevator music” (they do it so well!) in the background which helps keep things upbeat.
The piece starts in a speed-dating setting, but moves into date-like scenarios. At times the scenes move along as if almost a series of vignettes, but where some of the players seem to have a developed character arc with recurring themes and a sense of growth or resolve, not all do, but the piece would be stronger for it. The best scenes, where the jokes are thick and pace is great, are the awkward interactions between mismatched couples, or when best friends give cliché advice.
The girls all do a wonderful job, but perhaps Burzacott stands out because she has a more exaggerated, typically ‘Australian’ delivery style. By the time she sings ‘Game, Set, Match Garry’, a song about her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Garry, she has the audience in the palm of her hand. She romanticises “you’re my Garry Abblett Junior… and Senior… In one” and the night ends happily when she receives a text from Garry who wants her back. Classy stuff!
Rule has a certain endearing warmth and gets a few fun date scenes before she gets real and delivers the matter-of-fact ‘Somebody’s Arsehole’, which she nails. One of the bigger-sound production numbers, and a personal highlight for me, we are reminded that we have all done something shitty (pun intended) to someone in the game of love, but while someone is ‘our arsehole’, we too are someone else’s.
Jones and Patterson are both strong performers with great voices and stage presence, but I wanted one of them to meet a match! I’m a sucker for a happy ending.
The blokes offer a little less substance, but go for the laughs. Chris Blain has some great moments as an egotistical dater, and Djukic gets to shock as the cheating sleaze with an unusual need to sleep around. “I fucking love being a whore” is another crowd favourite number. Stephenson’s character is somewhat lost on me though. The cheeky number ‘Sava’s Tips for Luke’ sees the womaniser Djukic mentor an awkward and sexually-unaware Stephenson in the art of seduction. Just as all things point to Stephenson being not-so-interested in women, there seems to be an obvious overlooked gag when there is no real conclusion. Loz Blain, Chris’ real life brother, adds to the comedic value, and at times it’s easy to get caught up watching him do his vocal percussion.
The love medley provides a fun and familiar finale, and it is well worth the wait for Beyonce’s ‘Crazy in Love’. With both groups singing together at full volume, it’s almost as if there is a full band on the stage.
Festival-goers should take a bite out of this deliciously sweet strawberry. It’s a whole lot of fun and there is something in it for everyone to relate to … Just don’t take a first-date. That might be weird.