I was grateful to be seated at a table with a lady whose daughter had gone to WAAPA with Daniella Sciari, because neither she nor her vocal partner Eimear Foley identified themselves to the audience, nor did they bother with an introduction to their truly excellent accompanist Joshua James Webb. Classical meets Cabaret is a somewhat bizarre concept especially to those of us familiar and fond of the extraordinary output of Stephen Sondheim. Master of modern musical composition, by turn heartbreakingly sad and scathingly witty his songs are the staple of Broadway and worldwide hit shows.
The programme began with a credible version of Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch. Both artists seemed to be comfortable with the increasingly inebriated “ladies”. They looked the part in their simple but elegant pantsuits and kept the delivery relatively low key.
The first solo from Foley was the incredibly difficult and speedy Sondheim parody of The Boy from Ipanema, the other humorous aspect of the song comes from the fact that every verse ends with a repetition of the name of the said character's hometown, a fictional village called "Tacarembo la Tumba del Fuego Santa Malipas Zacatecas la Junta del Sol y Cruz" with the narrator becoming more out-of-breath with each verse. This is only enhanced by the ending, where the narrator laments that her beloved is "moving to Wales, to live in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch." Foley managed the incredibly difficult tongue-twister with aplomb, although her rendition was so fast as to make her indistinguishable at times.
Sciari gave us her interpretation of What More Do I Need and just about this point I began to feel disappointed. These two performers are talented graduates of the opera school at WAAPA, arguably one of the highest training grounds in the country and many would argue internationally. However Sondheim is not opera or even operetta, it is musical theatre. When viewed at an international level such as the Sondheim 90th birthday celebration concert last year, the tone is light and insouciant, no matter the topic.
Foley and Sciari have powerful and true voices but they are not suited to the froth and bubble of a Sondheim throwaway number. There were a few highlights where they approached the swooningly romantic Not a Day Goes By and The Sun Comes Up, I think of you with gentle tenderness. Send in the Clowns was a lovely interlude.
This show just needed a little more careful consideration, rather than simply suiting it to the artists own personal vocal strengths.
Perth Fringe World 2021
Side by Side
Eimear Foley and Daniella Sicari
Venue: ACES Downstairs at The Maj at His Majesty's Theatre | 825 Hay St, Perth, WA
Dates: until 30 Jan 2021