Since its inception in 2010, the Melbourne Cabaret Festival has grown from strength to strength. Today, it is the second – largest artistic event of its kind in the world.

Some of the Australian and international stars that have graced the festival with their presence are Joey Arias, Trevor Ashley, Alana Conway, Dolly Diamond, Ginger & Tonic, Chelsey Gibb, Adam Guettel, Amanda Harrison, Melissa Langton, Elise McCann, Matthew Mitcham, and Naomi Price.

This year’s schedule runs for two jam – packed weeks. With a multitude of options suiting a solid range of musical tastes, the 2018 program includes:

  • Fire Walk With Us: The Music Of Twin Peaks;
  • He’s Every Woman with Justin Clausen;
  • Peter Allen – Live in Inverted Commas;
  • Practically Perfect – The Music of Julie Andrews; and,
  • Someone’s Daughter with Alyce Platt.

Playing until Sunday, We’ve Only Just Begun: The Music Of The Carpenters, reinforces in particular, the festival’s wide variety.

Angela Lumicisi is a local talent with an impressive list of stage, film, and television credits to her name. With a background in musical theatre, opera, and cabaret, Lumicisi has featured in:

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Melbourne Shakespeare Company);
  • Cavalleria Rusticana (Melbourne Opera);
  • Flora The Red Menace (Theatreworks / Magnormos);
  • La Traviata (Melbourne Opera); and
  • Wicked (Gordon Frost Organisation).

Confessing a life – long obsession with The Carpenters, Lumicisi fronts We’ve Only Just Begun with style, humour, and emotional aplomb.

For the uninitiated few, Karen and Richard Carpenter were an American vocal and instrumental act. Dominating pop charts around the world for more than a decade, their award – winning sound was the epitome of ‘easy listening’. Together, Karen’s distinctive vocal style, combined with Richard’s brilliant composition, have given the team a very special place in pop music history.

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Their wholesome public image however, concealed several dark secrets. Worn down by the rigours of constant touring, Richard fought prescription drug addiction, and Karen died of heart complications from anorexia nervosa. She was only thirty – two.

We’ve Only Just Begun is not your standard tribute act. Instead, Lumicisi presents a jukebox musical, supported by a strong and compelling book.

Well – known shows to adopt this model include large scale productions from Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You, to chamber pieces like Everybody Loves Lucy and Vigil. We’ve Only Just Begun, however, gives the piece a fascinating local context.

Using elements from her own traditional upbringing, the basic premise follows Angela Giuseppina Lumicisi, a shy and sheltered Italian girl from East Brunswick. Falling in love with the music of Karen Carpenter, Angela, through her idol, is inspired to follow both her dreams and her heart. Running parallel with the American pop sensation’s career and personal life, We’ve Only Just Begun creates a clever narrative driven and inspired by The Carpenters rich and soulful song book. Each tune has been clearly chosen with purpose, to expand on a particular emotional moment.

Lumicisi is sublime in the role, and the show gives the artist many opportunities to showcase her gorgeous singing voice, as well as a keen comic sensibility and powerful dramatic range. This funny and moving tale will resonate with many viewers, myself included.

Carpenter was known for her striking contralto. Like Karen, Lumicisi captures that stylistic essence, while putting her own stamp on each work. Crisp piano accompaniment provides neat support throughout the experience.

Clocking in at sixty colourful minutes, We’ve Only Just Begun features a generous handful of the duo’s iconic hits. In no particular order, Lumicisi’s show includes such tunes as:

  • Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft
  • Close To You
  • For All We Know
  • Goodbye To Love
  • Help!
  • I Need To Be In Love
  • My Body Keeps Changing My Mind
  • One Love
  • Only Yesterday
  • Please Mr. Postman
  • Rainy Days And Mondays
  • Sing
  • Solitaire
  • Superstar
  • Ticket To Ride
  • Top Of The World

The show’s simple set consists of small props and objects, all used to inform key moments in the story. Spot lighting and fades keep the action moving, and two costume changes provided a hilarious throwback to seventies fashion. Sound amplification provides good balance between Lumicisi and her instrumentalist.

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Chapel Off Chapel’s Loft space is normally set up with rows of raked seating. For the festival’s duration however, it has been reconfigured with a nightclub – style layout. In doing this, a more intimate tone and mood are immediately established. Meaning, viewers may enjoy shows like We’ve Only Just Begun up close and personal.

Playing for a strictly – limited season, this is one of the guaranteed highlights of The Melbourne Cabaret Festival.  Catch it while you can.

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