This year I had the good fortune to watch and review six vastly – different shows at the Melbourne Cabaret Festival. It was fascinating to witness what actually constitutes cabaret. Meaning, each artist or group offered an entirely different spin on this specialised entertainment medium.
Presentations ranged from highly – personal stories interwoven with pop standards, or chamber musicals and concerts using tunes as their primary focus, to fully – blown tribute acts where a particular star or theme was highlighted in detail.
I liked that there was no set formula in place. Simply to entertain, became the overall driving force.
Of all the routines, Practically Perfect – The Music Of Julie Andrews, was perhaps the most traditional and familiar in story and structure.
Starting out as a child – star in her native England, Andrews made a name for herself on London’s West End, then with Broadway in New York City, before becoming a fully – fledged film star. With hits like Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music to her credit, Andrews immediately became the number one box – office draw in the world.
Since then, she starred in a series of top – rating television specials, teamed up with her daughter, Emma Walton – Hamilton, to co – author a series of children’s books, and has also written a warts – and – all autobiography.
In 2017, Andrews came to Australia to direct and help recreate the official sixtieth anniversary live production of My Fair Lady.
Put simply, she has done it all.
Practically Perfect stars Karla Hillam (Offspring, Wentworth, The Divine Miss Bette, The Marvellous Wonderettes) and Jeremy Hinman (Chicago, Legally Blonde, The Midtown Boys). It was clear from the outset that they had a tremendous passion for and personal interest in the subject matter.
For sixty minutes, the pair took viewers on a spirited journey (written by Margaret Fisk) which covered the many highs and lows of this living legend. An informative delight for fans and friends alike, Hillam and Hinman kept the tone light, fun, and educational. Together, the pair presented this ambitious show with flair and enthusiasm. As a team, it should be noted that they share an unforced, sophisticated chemistry.
For anyone familiar with Andrews’ extensive repertoire, this is highly demanding material. The varied set included such classics as:
- Wonderful Day;
- Do Re Mi;
- I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face;
- The Rain In Spain;
- I Could Have Danced All Night;
- I Won’t Dance;
- The Continental;
- Step In Time;
- A Spoonful Of Sugar;
- Le Jazz Hot;
- Let’s Go Fly A Kite;
- Practically Perfect; and,
- The Sound Of Music.
Hillam and Hinman used these nostalgic choices to great effect. In several instances, the pair asked the audience to sing along with them. By getting viewers to participate with them in this way, it was an inclusive and clever touch.
Further still, Practically Perfect was a visual treat with tasteful staging and a series of elegant costume changes (both designed by Christina Logan-Bell), smooth ballroom and tap dance breaks (choreographed by Hinman), and solid lighting (by Brooke Van Eerden).
Providing piano accompaniment, Martine Wengrow was responsible for musical direction, arrangements & orchestrations. Keeping the action moving at all times, James Cutler provided focussed direction.
Sadly, sound quality was quite the issue on opening night.
With their table positioned at the back of the space, the technicians’ constant chatter was an unnecessary distraction. I am sure some other customers heard them talking as well, and it is highly disrespectful to the performers. Their lack of concentration, caused several obvious glitches which may not have otherwise happened. If you are hired to do a job, keep quiet and stay on the ball at all times. Getting the logistics of live theatre right is strenuous enough.
Practically Perfect – The Music Of Julie Andrews, played for three consecutive nights at the Melbourne Cabaret Festival. The creative team has built an experience which should appeal to a wide demographic, and potentially, could tour as a free – standing entity as well.