Velvet | Organised Pandemonium

Velvet | Organised PandemoniumLeft – Marcia Hines and Brendan Maclean. Cover – Emma Goh. Photos – Sam Oster

Admitting to shedding a tear over disco is not something that I ever thought I would do, however at last Thursday's performance of Velvet at the Sydney Opera House, this is exactly what happened. The show is a tour-de-force of disco brilliance that will convert even the most hard core anti-discoist and spit him out of the disco spin cycle with a stupid grin on his face.

Created and directed by Craig Illot, Velvet combines singing and dancing, acrobatics and striptease, hula hoops and seduction with the tale of a young man's journey of self discovery; the result is an hour and a half of pure and unadulterated joyous escapism combined with glamorous costumes and high energy performances.

Marcia Hines looks and sounds stunning and it is hard to believe that this well-known songstress had her early hits in the 1970's. Her voice is fresh and stable and Hines captivates the audience with  a relaxed and graceful stage presence. Chaska Halliday and Rechelle Mansour provide Marcia Hines with backing vocals but are so much more than backing vocalists. Both women are knockout singers in their own right as well as high energy dancers with magnetic stage presence. Brendan Maclean - who plays the 'young man' – has a gorgeous warm voice and I particularly enjoyed his minor key version of 'Stayin' Alive'. During the song, Maclean accompanies himself on ukelele on an abandoned stage and his reflective, heartfelt singing offers a quiet counterpoint to the surrounding high energy craziness.

Perle Noire – who commands the catwalk-like stage with her 'got to be seen to be believed' striptease – is a fiery, and seductive black jewel. This woman is no ordinary stripper, rather a master of timing who knows how to work her audience with every flick of her head and twitch of a limb. Her final 'OMG' butt shaking bonanza to flashing lights inspires awe and giggles as she leaves her panting audience behind.

Another genius audience pleaser is Craig Reid, aka The Incredible Hula Boy whose masterful hip swingin' keeps those hoops a spinnin'. His plump frame, and camp behaviour and outfits are completely endearing and I particularly enjoyed his hula hooping whilst suspended above the stage – it almost seemed that he had just floated away. Reid's self confidence and charisma are gifts that will keep audiences charmed and giggling for a long time to come.

The acrobats of the show – Mirko Kockenberger, Emma Goh and Stephen Williams – provide another angle to the show's amazingness with feats of balance and strength. Kockenberger opens the show with some particularly frightening looking balancing on top of flimsy looking suitcases and the intense concentration on his face only dissolves once his feet hit the ground. Williams and Goh make a gorgeous pair with their suspended, intertwined, spinning  above the stage that looks so simple and graceful in spite of the incredible strain placed on their bodies.

No review of Velvet would be complete without mention of music-director Joe Accaria who provides an amazingly cool looking backdrop to the show and is a fantastic drummer to boot. He is there at the start and end of the action and provides a stabilizing influence, a kind of Godfather-like figure overseeing the action and playing DJ and drummer at the same time. And the music is of course completely splendid! Whatever you think of 'disco', I challenge you to go and see Velvet and sit there without smiling and dancing in your seat. It is just simply not possible to listen to those tunes and rhythms and not feel the joy of life bubble up within you and spread across your face in a smile. And to those of you who attended the anti-disco protest in Chicago on July 12, 1979 – aka 'Disco Demolition Night' – here is your chance to redeem yourself by getting along to support Velvet.

Organised Pandemonium presents

Director Craig Ilott

Venue: The Studio – Sydney Opera House
Dates: 6 October – 1 November 2015

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