Queenie Van de ZandtI have only ever seen Queenie Van de Zandt in her one woman show called I Get the Music In You in which she plays a Dutch music therapist who is not the most altruistic in nature. I loved her wry cynicism and hilarious butchering of the English language.

Cabaret  - The 12 Step Program is an intimate show at The Butterfly Club. Van de Zandt still works the idea of educating her audience, although this time she plays herself. The real life Queenie is, to quote another great woman of song, Aretha Franklin, a “natural woman.” In baggy tunic top, flower brooches, bare feet and toe rings, she is relaxed, a bit of a hippie and not into pretensions. 

That’s what I like about Van de Zandt – she’s down to earth, slightly bitter and twisted, and highly entertaining. She’s not a sparkly show tunes or burlesque sort of cabaret girl. She’s dry, occasionally intellectual and a realist when it comes to the highs and lows of cabaret life.

With Mark Jones on piano, she takes us through the intricacies of constructing a cabaret show – what to do and what not to do. It’s presented  in power point style and she shares substantial amounts of film footage of her at 17 years of age tackling Andrew Lloyd Webber with her singing friends in the back of a country RSL hall.

The footage is pretty hilarious – straight out the 80’s with big sleeves and shoulder pads and a shiny background curtain with record jackets pinned to it. I’m sure the eye shadow would have been blue (although I can’t confirm that since the footage was black and white). They sang from Cats, Evita…the whole gamut. Her group may not have been very good, but they sure did have passion.

It’s that passion that still comes through in Van de Zandt’s self-deprecating style as she mocks herself, her lack of fame, the fact that in 20 years she has not made a cent from the genre and some of her disastrous vocal projects (think Eureka, the musical, and the short lived season of The Full Monty).

Yet there is no stopping this woman. I think she will sing till her end. Whether it’s Australian contemporaries like Lano and Woodley, Eddie Perfect or Tim Minchin or someone as ubiquitous as Weber, Van de Zandt has the love and more importantly, from all her years of experience, the technical know-how which she brings to humourous effect.

Her tips include things like “Introduce Yourself” “Don’t Be Self-Indulgent” and “Do an encore even if they don’t want one.” She gives tips on creating banter between songs, how to look “really into the pianist’s solos” and shares personal anecdotes (apparently a crucial component of any cabaret performance).

The Butterfly Club, with its unique kitsch surrounds, cozy pew-like seating and up close and personal ambience is a great setting for this gem of a show. The audience seemed mostly friends or people in the industry, but it wouldn’t be hard for general punters to enjoy this diverse hour of friendly information sharing and Van de Zandt taking the piss out of cabaret in the fondest of ways.

Cabaret – The 12 Step Program
Queenie van de Zandt

The Butterfly Club | 204 Bank Street, South Melbourne
Saturdays on 9, 16, 23, 30 June and 7 July, all shows at 10.30 pm
$20 full / $15 for concession-holders and for groups of 8 or more
one hour approx

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