Cabaret is a late child in the family of dramatic entertainment, a close cousin of burlesque. In her formative years she showed great promise as a sharp and biting commentator on social mores always exhibiting a highly infectious musical talent so superbly evidenced in the Broadway musical of the name by Kander and Ebb.
In what might be described as her maturity she has developed something of a dual personality introducing a gentle reverie to it. In this more reflective mood she is seen with her partner for the evening offering a series of seemingly unrelated songs in the performer’s repertoire. These are strung together by a loosely structured highly personal patter of which the likes of Tony Bennett is a very engaging exponent.
Her personality has become almost bipolar in her more recent years, the one showing an outward view of the world and the other a very introspective light on the performer who partners her. It would seem to be the partner’s leaning that brings forth one or other side of this gifted child’s personality. Actor singers, more comfortable perhaps in borrowed costume, seem to bring out in her the more satyric and boisterous character. Singer, songwriters are want to evoke her more reflective mood.
There is little doubt given Parke’s credits and the format of the entertainment that he has chosen to partner her in the role of actor singer. He has a wonderful voice, rich and vibrant that resonates with feeling. The songs he has chosen to dress her in for the evening are equally varied and joyous.
It is in the particular way he has chosen to lead Mademoiselle Cabaret that the weakness is seen. On this particular occasion she is not allowed to present either aspect of her personality convincingly and she appeared contrary and out of sorts.
Perhaps Parke as self styled knight errant was trying to force the child into unfamiliar steps. The quest he had set for himself in this guise was to place a pennant on life’s teeming shore, to make a mark upon the world, the quest to be a star. In this he was joined by Nigel Ubrihien a very accomplished accompanist to be his Sancho Panza who, as in the original, was to tirelessly follows Parke’s Don Quixote through a ‘fantasy’ venture.
Perhaps it is in the writing of the dialogue or maybe it’s just the style of the man himself but it doesn’t quite fit with Mademoiselle Cabaret. It’s too introspective to be satire and too much of a romance to be personal.
Cervantes’ Don Quixote’s quest after all was very different. He laboured tirelessly, unrecognised in the pursuit of a better world, not one that would take notice of him. It is perfectly fine for the likes of Nina Simone or Harry Connick Jr to titivate their audience with personal reminiscences. They might be equally as fictitious as those devised by this knight errant but they are delivered as though they are intimate secrets shared with the audience. These performers trade on exposing themselves to the audience’s voyeuristic gaze. When an actor takes to the stage he perforce leaves his own persona backstage.
The sequence of songs seemed by and large to be part of Parke’s own repertoire, the sheet music he never leaves behind. While they were cleverly introduced they were never allowed to become part of the actual story. They were delivered in the character of the show from which they were taken not in the character of this new Quixote. So Cabaret couldn’t really know which side of her persona to present. On the one hand she was to expose the comedy of life and on the other to bring comedy to life.
While Parke has great presence the story he related through dialogue and song lacked cohesion and failed to capture the humour that was intended to underscore the piece. Some of the songs were glorious but the patter in between was laboured.
The Statement Lounge below the State Theatre is a wonderfully intimate venue. The volume of delivery through the microphones seemed too loud for the space and at times became distorted. It raised the question as to whether there was a need for microphones at all given Parke’s obvious vocal strength.
It was certainly a high energy performance and the songs delightful but as for Cabaret, she wasn’t quite herself on this occasion.
TAA Entertainment presents
Chinks in the Armour
Venue: Statement Lounge | 49 Market St Sydney
Dates: 25 October, 3 & 10 November 2007