What is Cabaret? Well most traditional devotees would probably expect something that involved lots of songs/music and perhaps storytelling, often revolving around a theme. This year's Adelaide Cabaret Festival Artistic Director, Barry Humphries, loudly declares (in the Festival brochure) that "the game of Cabaret has no rules..."
Australian musical theatre darling Christie Whelan Browne and her regular collaborator/director Dean Bryant have bravely seized the 'no rule' scenario with their new creation, Pure Blonde.
Pure Blonde does have a theme but is sparsely laced with musical content and high on character monologues, essentially creating a totally different and unexpected performance piece for Whelan Browne.
Tracing a series of characters (both male and female) on a journey from youthful music theatre graduate through to a mature aged veteran, now relegated to touring regional clubs – Whelan Browne shows her versatility and ability to manage a solo performance, with skill and humour. The array of monologues however, are uneven and often seem too lengthy and too many. At least one, dealing with inappropriate behaviour in the workplace, feels totally out of place.
An early reference is made to Bombshells, which was written for and splendidly performed by Caroline O'Connor a few years ago. While this is not another Bombshells, there are some very funny, although at times, harsh observations made about life in the theatre, and the people who inhabit it.
Musical highlights (far too few) include a musical mash-up at the start that includes snippets of songs from Grease and Fiddler on the Roof, to Little Shop of Horrors and Wicked. More modern material includes Sia's Chandelier and Billy Joel's Only the Good Die Young, as well as two new original songs – Hot Chorus Boy and Rob Mills.
Mathew Frank ably supports on piano as well as plays the occasional sidekick.
This particular style of cabaret may not appeal to everyone, but is an interesting twist on our expectations.
And as the end song reminds us: There's No Business like Show Business!
Adelaide Festival Centre presents
Christie Whelan Browne
Director Dean Bryant
Venue: Artspace Gallery | Adelaide Festival Centre
Dates: 11 – 13 Jun 2015
Tickets: $34.90 – $24.90