Left – Christa Hughes. Photo – Arianna Bosi
The cabaret stage is littered with artistic groupings of beer bottles and there is a table groaning with beverages, shaded by a tasteful blow-up banana with palm tree. The exceptionally talented pianist/accompanist/arranger Leonie Cohen, sets the tone of the evening. Enter the diva; be-gloved, be-turbaned, clad in slinky black satin, rhinestones and pearls. We, the audience, relax into the cabaret treat that is Christa Hughes.
Opening with the show signature tune, Beer Drinking Woman (how does she maintain that fabulous figure quaffing as she does?), Hughes vamped, camped and beer-gargled her way through a fabulous first set.
Meandering through the Whisky Trail, the nightmarish hangover consequences of The Pig Flu Blues, Hughes segued to her own racy version of My Favourite Things. Her boozy, raddled rendition of the Tom Waits number, The Piano Has Been Drinking, was hilarious and superbly timed. Make no mistake, Hughes is possessed of a fine voice and vocal range. Smartly she varies the song list, slipping in stylish, straighter renditions, like Lilac Wine to remind us of the fact. Despite the boozy comedy there were some cuttingly cruel numbers. Two outstanding compositions penned by Hughes herself were The Stink of Desperation and Dirty Old Man. The latter with a truly nasty chorus, “Dribble, dribble, dribble.” Cleverly, just as you wince at the images, Hughes slips in the slightest touch of self-mockery to ease the tension.
The second half opened with a Hawaiian print, cheongsam clad, baby piano accordion toting Hughes working the room. With the gladsome cry “This is just like my twenty first!”, the Yalumba cask was cracked open, celebrated and shared with unsuspecting front row patrons. Cheap Wine made the Jimmy Barnes number look piss weak by comparison. Finally, the lyrics were funny and comprehensible. The crowd leapt at the chance to loudly vocalise the chorus!
The tragically lovely Dinah Washington number Drinking Again was delivered with lovely languorous flair, perfectly underscored by Cohen on piano. The Hughes version of Is that all there Is? took an amusing stab at Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, Cats in particular. Primed, as we were, to expect an encore, the pair returned to the stage to render the awful Dean Martin Show signature song, You’re Nobody until Somebody Loves You, with gusto.
Hughes is a cabaret artist at the height of her powers. Cohen is excellent.
We were lucky enough to be in the audience.
BEER DRINKING WOMAN
Christa Hughes and Leonie Cohen
Venue: DownStairs at the Maj, 825 Hay St, Perth
Dates: 11 – 13 Sep, 2014
Tickets: $42 – $38
Bookings: 1300 795 012 | ticketek.com.au