Erika Stern (Alexis Fishman) is the Weimar cabaret scene’s sweetheart, and tonight you will watch as she delivers her final performance in a heartfelt yet comical way. The Nazi power is rising and Erika is without choice but to leave.
Erika paints pictures with her deep voice, singing tongue-in-cheek tunes (Atilla the Hun), satirical and political material (Masculine and Feminine) and longing, heartbreaking biographies of love (Go away little boy). Her story telling is not without its captivation, delivering many a laugh and more than a handful of awkward moments to be had in the audience. We sit back in the lounge of Der Gelbe Stern as we go to another realm with Erika.
Supporting Erika is a small trio of Otto on piano (Chris King), double bass (Eric Hutchens) and reeds (Greg Jones). The band accompanies Fishman superbly, with fantastic splashes of personality and a very genuine politeness about them. The band occupies a small corner, and Erika has a round platform to herself, simple and bare staging, but nonetheless, very effective – although I would have preferred to have seen more than just the back of our pianist.
Fishman’s singing is phenomenal, it just drips of vocal technique – you can hear how hard this woman has worked to make every song her own, not to simply sing the right notes in the right time – but to add to that, she sings with clarity and a strong sense of attachment and personalisation of the story.
Fuelled by gallows humour, I find Fishman’s delivery of Erika to be extremely grabbing. Director Tanya Goldberg has helped mould the perfect combination – the sorrow, forlorn and bitterness is spat out with just the right doses of humour, sweetness, innocence and longing – taking us with Erika on a journey of triumph and loss. Erika is a lovable creation, beautiful yet flawed in so many ways and mistreated by so many others.
The young songstress delivers in the traditional cabaret style, transforming part of the Reginald Theatre (downstairs at the Seymour Centre) into a restaurant setting, with small tables, drinks and dim lighting. It’s a comfortable and intimate little theatre, despite there being a very serious lack of air circulation so if you have breathing difficulties, make sure to sit as close to the stage as possible. Oh and also, if you need to go to the bathroom, make sure you go before the show starts (it’s only an hour long show) because the only entry and exit points are down the staircase which sits smack bang in the middle.
Where the production falls short is in its lack of information giving – the story falls behind and appears to be a second thought to add on to the songs. With a little more depth in the narrative department, this production could grow to be a more fulfilling experience. But given the chance, I’d see the production over just to hear this brilliant voice. Alexis Fishman is definitely one to keep your eye on as I’m sure she’ll soon be storming the music theatre scene with that voice of hers.
Der Gelbe Stern (The Yellow Star)
by James Millar & Alexis Fishman
Directed by Tanya Goldberg
Venue: Reginald Theatre | Seymour Centre, NSW
Dates: 3 - 13 August
Times: Wed – Fri 8pm; Sat 7pm & 9.30pm; Tue 6.30pm
Tickets: $32 Front Row Cabaret Table / Full $27 / Conc $23 / Preview tickets for ‘Friends of Reg’ $20
Bookings: Call 02 9114 1555 | www.thereginald.com