Intriguing exploration of many contrasting facets of a brief but dazzling life.
Cabaret as a genre allows for creative exploration in its presentations, an intimate form that can challenge and subvert expectations while producing a unique entertainment experience. Audience members and performers are encouraged to interact in a way impossible with larger scale productions, creating unique moments that are cherished by performers and attendees alike.
The Cabaret Soiree series, then, seems the perfect setting for Director Nicholas Christo’s latest project – the premiere of a thoughtful retrospective on the life and work of Jim Morrison. Performer Luigi Lucente does not attempt to act out or imitate the man, this is not an Elvis-style cheese-fest, so much as he channels the muse of poetry-infused lyrics, fits of temper and self-destruction, chasing of the trappings of fame and all of this accompanied by rich keyboard control of a grand piano that itself pays homage to the skills of Ray Manzarek.
Lucente has tight control of the song list, not afraid to confuse and dazzle in turns. Playing and talking, vocals always precisely delivered, chords crashing and delicate picking at keys not only contrasting with each other but demonstrating the sympathy of the performer with the source material. The arrangements are lovely, perfect for cabaret, and away from the nostalgia lists of second-rate radio stations. “Light my Fire”, “Riders on the Storm”, “Break on Through”, “People are Strange” – they come across as immediately familiar and yet fresh and disarming. The segue into “The End” was typical of the show as a whole – an irrational temper outburst directed at the stage technician immediately followed by gorgeous vocals and soulful performance that had shivers running up this reviewer’s back.
Between songs, where many cabaret acts provide anecdotes, patter and banter with the audience, Kaleidoscope instead crams with various observations of the life of Morrison. Lucente variously recites descriptions of The Doors from contemporary publications, loses himself in stream of consciousness murmurings that resolve themselves into lyrics, struts his Morrison-inspired stuff and has conversations with absent friends and groupies, all of which are fascinating but which are all very absorbed by the show’s self-absorbed focus. While this adds to the show as a fragmented whole, the lack of actual connection with the audience risks losing attention and creating friction in the entertainment in favour of staying faithful to the concept.
Downstairs at His Maj can be a difficult venue for performers, the very intimacy and quirky layout that make it so special can create issues in terms of audience lines of sight. Considering this, and Kaleidoscope’s precise details, keeping the setting simple with only the piano, a bottle and a candle, leaving room to strut and prance, was a strong choice. Lighting changes closely with the mood, and the sound desk maintained vibrant levels that worked well with the general chatter that seems to accompany Perth cabaret performances.
Introspective as much as retrospective, with beautiful vocals and talented piano playing to carry the bizarre antics that live on as part of the Morrison’s myth as much as his music, with a novel yet respectful presentation of the many broken pieces that form the lasting memory of a man, a band and part of an era.
Perth Theatre Trust and His Majesty’s Theatre present
by Luigi Lucente
Directed by Nicholas Christo
Venue: Downstairs at His Maj, Perth
Dates: 28 – 30 August 2014
Bookings: 1300 795 012 | www.ticketek.com.au
Part of Cabaret Soiree