In the past two months or so, I have had the good fortune to review five similarly – themed, and equally brilliant tribute pieces.
Dream Lover, The Fabulous Singlettes, Gilligan’s Island – The Musical, The Show Goes On, and now, The Sound Of Falling Stars, share several key traits with each another. With one foot set firmly in the past and the other in the present, these experiences tap into our collective love for nostalgia and illusion, both brought to exacting life.
One only has to look at how celebrity impressionists like USA’s Christina Bianco and Christine Pedi, or our own Trevor Ashley, are so beloved and admired on the global entertainment scene for their outstanding work. Sprinkling their respective routines with fun, love and laughter, they are as close to the real thing as one gets.
In this latest instance, however, I have been presented with a tremendous challenge. Prior to attending The Sound Of Falling Stars, its publicists seemed adamant about how they presented their show’s potential for maximum impact.
A standard is to beforehand, perhaps supply writers with a souvenir program, printed set list, or press release. Anything, to assist in composing our thoughts and observations. Here, there was none of that. Which of course, only piqued my intrigue, and as the evening turned out, was absolutely the right call on their part.
Shrouded in complete mystery, it is imperative for one to walk in free from expectations, to enjoy the final result. (It should be noted that other patrons in attendence, weren’t given access to any reference or resource material, either.)
Currently playing in the same complex next door at the Fairfax Studio, The Show Goes On is potentially the closest relative to The Sound Of Falling Stars.
There, Bernadette Robinson’s one – woman act, is an electrifying showcase for the half – dozen divas she covers in her show, as well as her own talent for mimicry. The women she features are Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Barbra Streisand, Julie Andrews, Edith Piaf and Maria Callas. With a running time of seventy – five minutes, Robinson glides between singing their most iconic tunes, as well as sharing anecdotal snippets about what made that collective group tick. Cabaret at its most intimate, I was always at one with the journey.
An award – winning performer and composer, there is no denying that Cameron Goodall is a major talent on the ascent. To date, his acting credits include extended tenures with Disney’s The Lion King and the Sydney Theatre Company.
Authored and directed by Robyn Archer, The Sound Of Falling Stars will surely cement his place as an entertainer and storyteller. In her nurturing care, she has created a piece which clearly plays to his strengths. Archer’s ability as a writer, gives its high – concept story tremendous emotional range, yet pinpoint precision at all times. No artistic or technical detail is left unchecked in this immersive, theatrical masterpiece. (It came as no surprise, when the capacity audience gave the show a full standing ovation on opening night.)
Without giving too much away, this is less a cabaret routine in the traditional sense, and closer in structure to a non – linear chamber musical.
Taking viewers to the human spirit’s darkest and most vulnerable corners, The Sound Of Falling Stars looks at more than thirty international singing stars. Placed under the microscope, the eclectic cast ranges from legends like Elvis Presley and Jim Morrison, to more recent singers such as Jeff Buckley and Kurt Cobain.
This musical education draws on many different styles including punk, heavy metal, opera, country & western, folk, grunge, rock, pop, gospel and soul. With Goodall’s uncanny ability to shift style and intensity as he chooses, the show’s set list includes over twenty iconic tunes and less familiar pieces, fused together in complete harmony.
While some names may sound more familiar than others, all are equally deserving for inclusion. These stories need to be told. Gone too young, for reasons which are addressed during the show, Goodall’s consummate skills as a performer, make their tales of misadventure required viewing. At eighty minutes in length, the show takes immediate flight, never once letting go for its entire running time.
Like Robinson, Goodall is a master of vocal inflections and physical mannerisms. A thorough study, he jumps from one legend to another with ease. Often, within the blink of an eye. Thanks to Archer’s tight scripting, these gifts are never presented as a mere novelty act. There is complete reverence and respect for his subjects at all times.
It should also be noted that The Sound Of Falling Stars takes complete advantage of Arts Centre Melbourne’s – Playhouse vast stage.
Though props are deliberately kept to a bare and deliberate minimum, Goodall makes free use of the performance space. At times, he breaks the fourth wall, either with his two piece backing band (with Enio Pozzebon on keyboard and George Butrumlis on accordion) or the audience. But never once, however, does he drop character. Pushing their respective instruments to the limit, Pozzebon’s and Butrumlis’ accompaniment is excellent. Goodall, it must be said, plays a mean guitar, too.
Geoff Cobham’s superior lighting design gives the show an ethereal, futuristic edge. This production choice is perfect; Goodall almost appears holographic in the spotlight. (Several moments in the show reminded me of the dazzling casino lounge sequence from the blockbuster science fiction epic, Bladerunner 2049.) Where required, Cobham’s vision turns the Playhouse from the biggest stadium into the smallest, smoky club, and back again.
Sound design is faultless, and the show’s stage management always keeps proceedings smooth, focused and on – track.
Playing for a strictly – limited season until Saturday March 3, The Sound Of Falling Stars is event theatre at its best.