Are you a die-hard musical theatre fan? Do you love singing along to your favourite tunes from every show under the sun, ranging from Les Miserables to Little Shop of Horrors? If you think that that fairly describes you, then an event about to arrive in Sydney may be precisely the night out you’re looking for!
On Saturday 22 October in the Polo Lounge of The Oxford Hotel, a new showtunes night, Sing Out, Louise, will premiere. The New York style piano bar night will be an acoustic communal singalong.
Event organiser Gary Nunn spoke to Theatre People about his inspiration in creating this opportunity for Sydney-siders.
“The first time I ever went to New York, I went to a bar called Marie’s Crisis,” Nunn says, referencing the legendary piano bar in New York’s trendy Greenwich Village neighbourhood.
“Marie’s Crisis is the most unique bar I’ve been to anywhere in the world, and it’s unique because, unlike many cabaret bars and piano bars, there is no stage, there are no microphones, nobody is elevated above anybody else, and you’re not expected to sit passively and be silent and watch.
“Instead, everyone can join in if they want to. Nobody’s forced to. You stand around the piano and sing when you remember the lyrics. It’s kind of like the rule book is thrown out the window. It’s tubthumping, it’s riotous, it’s rambunctious, and everyone really raises the roof, especially when a classic song from one of the musicals everyone knows and loves come on.”
He continues: “I really wanted to bring a slice of that to Sydney. So, my night is very similar to that kind of night, and I thought what better way to do it then to bring one of the Marie’s Crisis piano players to Sydney especially for the event, all the way from New York.”
That piano player is Kenney Green, whose talents also extend to musical theatre acting and direction. At Sing Out, Louise, Green will lead the room in song as he plays the tunes.
“I first met Kenney in New York when he was behind the piano,” Nunn recalls.
“Kenney is that American, charismatic, in-your-face, gregarious kind of person that can get a whole room going without even a microphone in his hand… He isn’t your usual cabaret piano player who sits sedately behind the piano. He really reinvents the way people can interact with a piano player, and in a way that also doesn’t put anyone on the spot, which is what I really love about him, because not everyone’s a peacock.”
According to Nunn, Green has travelled to Sydney twice in recent years to take part in a special Marie’s Crisis-inspired event programmed as part of Fairfax Media’s Spectrum Now Festival – an event Nunn himself has also attended.
“That’s when I realised there’s a real appetite in Sydney for this kind of singalong showtune night,” he says.
For Nunn, Sing Out, Louise is about giving people the opportunity to have the Marie’s Crisis experience in Sydney more than once a year.
“People are stuck behind screens more and more, and there is this appetite for old-fashioned entertainment that doesn’t require audio/visuals or screens or all the things that we are slaves to,” says Nunn.
“We’re going to bring the house down in the way that we have the event because there aren’t going to be people sitting quietly eating dinner at tables. It’s going to be more rowdy than that.”
So, if all goes well, is Nunn planning to make Sing Out, Louise a more regular occurrence?
“It going well depends on two things: one, people turning up, but, two, people actually singing,” he explains.
“I will run it maybe two to three times a year, depending on people’s interest, and also depending on me getting a piano player. I can’t fly Kenney over from New York every time, unfortunately!”
But Nunn is confident that, given the calibre of local talent, that exercise won’t be too difficult.
“What I would really love is anyone who loves playing the piano and loves having a sing-song… If they can come along to the night and see how it’s done, then there’s a possible gig for a paid piano player that will be available next time.”
And the cost of the evening? It’s completely free. Those who attend are simply invited to tip the piano player.
SING OUT, LOUISE EVENT DETAILS
Venue: The Polo Bar, The Oxford Hotel (134 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst)
Date and time: Saturday 22 October, 8pm – 2am