The Misadventures of Miss Boozy Rouge, performed at the iconic Butterfly Club in Melbourne, was written and performed by Sarah Gousse.
The show opens in Gousse’s bedroom, with clothing strewn about, with the performer with her hair in curlers, and wearing what she calls her ‘pajamas’ – a silky polka dotted camisole and shorts set, under a printed satin robe. She proceeds to regale the audience with amusing anecdotes of her life, from childhood dreams, to high school and university, and on to the ups and downs of her adult life of nannying, auditions and performing. Her stories are broken up by lyrically suitable songs in a range of genres – from Jazz, to Music Theatre, even Country. Many of the songs have been rewritten to more accurately relate to the pertinent part of the story, some more successfully than others. Gousse often compares her somewhat chaotic existence to the perfect life of Miss Boozy Rouge, Gousse’s ‘Alter Ego’ who we don’t meet until later in the show. Once Miss Rouge, a Parisian Burlesque performer takes the stage, the show takes a dramatic turn from an intimate conversation in the midst of chaos, to a very French, slightly Burlesque performance. As the songs and stories continue, we find that despite Rouge’s outward glamour and success, it seems that perhaps their lives have more in common than Sarah expects.
The Misadventures of Miss Boozy Rouge was entertaining from a musical and comedic point of view, with frequent laughs from the audience. Gousse communicated directly with the audience and undertook some amusing audience participation. There were moments when the genre and range of the song was perfect, and we could hear that she has a stunning voice – rich and vibrant, with a warm vibrato. Unfortunately, she had continuous issues with pitch that were extremely off-putting. One particular ill-fated first note even brought comment from Gousse herself, but there were frequent flat notes at the end of pieces, predominantly in the softer songs. When singing in full belt, Gousse’s voice was shown off at its best, rarely missing her note.
The other issue which disrupted the flow of the show was the extremely long gap before the transformation from Sarah Gousse to Boozy Rouge. That may have been somewhat understandable, if the majority of the costume change had not been undertaken on stage in full view of the audience. Just as it appeared the transformation was complete, from the slinky black and red dress, right down to the curlers being removed, the lights went out, and Gousse disappeared back stage to ‘get the power back on’. What should have been a very brief interlude dragged on and on, to the point that Gousse called her Musical Director/Accompanist Daniele Buatti backstage to ‘help’. As the break continued, the audience members left on stage were joking about what song they should sing, and asking whether they should stay on stage or go. When she finally reappeared, with only a feathered headdress and sparkly shoes to explain the wait, it took a while to regain the lost momentum.
One of Gousse’s strengths, both as herself, and in portraying Boozy Rouge, is her expressive characterisation. She runs the gamut from childlike innocence to flirty romantic, sex crazed student to passionate Frenchwoman, and it is primarily her facial expression that carries it off. In the final numbers, when she is wearing little more than a sparkly bikini, the viewer’s eyes were still drawn to her face, and the emotion she was portraying.
Overall, the show was still highly entertaining, but will be raised to a whole new level if Gousse can get her pitch issues under control.