Speak EasyThis is a bold project. It’s a history lesson that spans decades of momentous world events and links them with musical numbers of the moment. It worked because of a fluid script, charmingly delivered by M.C. Nick Maclaine, a crackerjack ensemble of musicians and a vivacious and beautiful chanteuse Jessie Gordon. Mention must be made of the clever musical arrangements and the delicious wardrobe clothing Gordon. Both were excellent.

From the outset the musicians seemed to be livelier than the audience, getting right into the swing of things with appreciative hoots and exclamations. The cabaret room was packed and the crowd were listening attentively, but rowdy they were not. Perhaps a Thursday night audience is not quite as ready to party as a Friday gang? It’s irrelevant really as this short season sold out weeks ago. There is hope however of a reprise of the show in the near future.

The narrative swept from World War One to American prohibition and its repeal. The script was littered with interesting trivia such as the recipe for home-made wine involving “wine bricks” from California.

The ensemble musicianship was superb and allowed for sparkling solos from each of the nine members of the Cabaret Collective.

For me the highlights were the slower numbers delivered impeccably by Gordon. Love for Sale was gorgeous. She is, as they say, “the complete package”. She can shift from innocent ingénue (Manhatten) to seductive vamp (I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl) in a moment. Looking like a young MGM starlet, she flirted with the boys in the band and the audience shamelessly. She looked like she was having a ball.

The staging was minimal, as befits a speakeasy dive, the music stands were made of packing crates.

The time periods were cleverly underscored by the use of black and white photos projected onto the walls of the room. These ranged from depression era food lines, to the birth of talking movies and included early New York architectural wonders such as the iconic Chrysler Building. It was a surprise element that worked well.

Breakneck speed, ragtime jazz may not be for everyone but this was an excellent debut.

Perth Theatre Trust and His Majesty’s Theatre present
Speak Easy
devised by Andrew Umney & Jessica Herbert

Musical director Jessica Herbert

Venue: Downstairs at His Maj, Perth
Dates: 4 – 6 September 2014
Bookings: 1300 795 012 | www.ticketek.com.au

Part of Cabaret Soiree 2014

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