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Adelaide Fringe Review 2019 – Ambient Orchestra Presents David Bowie’s “Blackstar”

Ambient Orchestra (Maya Beiser/Evan Ziporyn) Presents David Bowie’s Blackstar

(A loosely transliterated crowd-sourced review).

In the shadow of the Elder Hall Conservatorium, Mr Carfax, Ms Curator, Mr Rifadin approach Mr Duke, looking wistfully at the fast melting ice in his artisan gin and tonic, leaning heavily on a wine barrel table.

“You left before the encore?” enquired Mr Rifadin with a frown.

Mr Duke nodded with a pensive expression, “Look, Blackstar is not one of my favourite Bowie albums – by any stretch. So I’m not precious over it. But I don’t know that I enjoyed that performance.”

“What do you mean?” retorted Ms Curator with disbelief, “That was fabulous. It garnered a standing ovation at the end!”

“The percussion…” responded Mr Duke with a hand flourish, “I would have preferred a more interpretive adaptation of the album with an orchestra, maybe without a dominant percussion section. You didn’t need to recreate all the frantic jazz rhythms verbatim.”


“I think,” mused Mr Carfax, “that it demonstrated some of Bowie’s works are more readily adaptable to a cello concerto format than others. Some of the songs translated well – like ‘Tis a Pity She’s A Whore, and particularly Lazarus. The horn and Double Bass sections were full of the native gravitas in the original mournful refrain.”

“Maya Beiser was an amazing cellist,” asserted Ms Curator “and the encore like Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and Life on Mars really allowed her to go full virtuoso.”

“There were some pleasingly original cello post-rock moments in the arrangement of Girl Loves Me”, agreed Mr Carfax.

“Maybe, but the arrangement of Let’s Dance was running the risk of being a little…I don’t know…Andre Rieu?” muttered Mr?Rifadin through an arched eyebrow, “Now where can I get a glass of wine that is not served in a plastic bio-cup?”

Unable to readily agree on a venue for a glass of wine, let alone the adaptability of the Bowie musical corpus, they took their opinions of orchestral manoeuvres into the darkened street of Adelaide.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 18th 2019 | Filed in Art,Music,People,Reviews | Comments (0)

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Adelaide Fringe 2019 Review – Bite Me But Smile

Zella Shear cascades onto the stage, all scarlet and self-assured – but beneath her chest beats the heart of a lonely soul looking for love and/or replacement batteries. Through comedic dialogue, audience participation, and a wonderfully curated musical story arc, she explores the aphrodisiac of loneliness and how to dull the pain through pet selfies, Instagram-induced oxytocin hits and comfort eating on Hindley Street at 3am.


That longing is most evident when she opens her mouth to sing her selected repertoire of love & loss songs, and lordy, she knows how to match her voice to precisely fill the performance space with melodic elegance.

Scaled dsc1058 colour print

Her jazz cabaret numbers like “Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend” are filled with energy, humour and a good dose of physical comedy, but when she switched down gears to a saudade-laden rendition of “Surabaya Johnny” in?impeccable German, you are hard pressed not to have a swooning Gomez Addams moment.


Her ability to then somehow blend tongue-in-cheek Australian patriotism, burlesque gimmickry and highly trained operatic splendour, shows she has the best kind of performing attention deficit, and most importantly the smarts to pull it all off.


Straight up – Zella is the fully versatile Demtel’s Tim Shaw of Cabaret, just when you think you’ve got her all figured out there is always a “But Wait There’s More!” on offer,


Get along to support her remaining shows this weekend, and importantly support La Boheme as a performance space into the future.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 13th 2019 | Filed in Cabaret,comedy,Music,Reviews | Comments (0)

Adelaide Fringe 2019 Review – Red Head Cabaret: Carrot Tops (+ Bottoms)

I occasionally boomerang on performances every couple of years to investigate the creative progression and how performers evolve over time.

Red Head Cabaret is certainly a different beast to the one I saw in 2017. I think back then I questioned the balance of the show in terms of both gender representational aspirations and whether it was primarily an edgy noir show or comedy?

To my mind there was little doubt these questions?are long resolved, with a talented ensemble cast flaunting fluidity well across the spectrum, and it’s tongue firmly planted in its cheek from the get-go.

The Redhead Cabaret in Carrot Tops (+ Bottoms). Picture: Brian Oa??Neill Photography

Racy burlesque courtesy of Moisty Magic took us on a magic carpet ride, testing the theory that a true ranga is best identified by in-depth examination of cuffs and collars. Freudian boylesque was uprooted in?an appropriately themed Daucus?costume by Rue Tay, and showed how if you like something one should stick a bunch of 24 carrots on it.?Lunar calisthenic displays by Sirena del Rosso on an impressive crescent apparatus were complemented and punctuated with fire breathing and handling?courtesy of the asbestos hands of Blazin Baden. And Ivy Fox was juiced on trinitrotoluene and delivered a solid performance that left the stage & audience ablaze on a high fire risk day.

If I’m going to raise a disappointment, and it is a small one, I would have?loved more singing by the MC, Mistress Laveena?du Pearl. I’ve heard her voice in full flight before, and I think I was a little?gutted that we only got a sampling.

Probably one of the surprising highlights was?word perfect slam poetry delivery by Saint Scarlett that flowed with articulated insight on the nature of “growing up different”.? It was an act I speculated might?miss the mark on some audience, but rather they were all silent and appreciatively attentive, showing that?performance poetry & rhymes have a real opportunity in Fringe cabaret, more than perhaps we are used to seeing.

But to add to the observation – the full house performance had more than a handful of folk flowing over from the?Adelaide 500 car race running nearby – and their receptivity gave me pause to observe that diverse and challenging fringe entertainment is being embraced by a broader cross-section of Mad March society. May it continue.

Red Head Cabaret will continue their performance run until mid-March?and is?an essential late-night guilty pleasure.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 5th 2019 | Filed in Burlesque,Cabaret,comedy,Reviews | Comments (0)

Adelaide Fringe 2019 Review – Forever In My Life, A Tribute To Prince

I know there are many times I have pondered, what would the soundtrack to my life be? For many people, they might think of a mix-tape of songs, but it would be a rarer individual who traces the trajectory of an artist’s career as a backdrop to their own life’s experiences. Thus you would be mistaken to think “Forever In My Life – A Tribute To Prince” is a Fringe Show about Prince and his music. But really it isn’t. It’s about Michael Wheatley’s life.

Image may contain: one or more people, hat and close-up
Michael is one of the Australian Fringe cabaret circuits most respected performers, but such a person doesn’t come out of the box ready made. In fact, in our culture of hyper-masculinity that has pervaded decades, a decision to build a life on the ability to sing, dance and perform, singles you out as somehow different, especially when these gifts manifest through adolescence. Let’s acknowledge, schoolyard peers can be brutal to the identity, confidence and health of any child.


Like Bowie before him, Prince was a chameleon of the highest order, challenging firm delineations in musicals styles, fashion, sexuality and social expectations. As such he was a beacon to Michael in his formative years and the catalyst to finding himself fronting a very successful Prince tribute band last century in the days when such international touring artists very infrequently visited Australia.


But Michael makes some very pertinent observations about Prince’s attitudes to his own music. It’s what he wrote for other people that was as important as his own performed corpus – Prince’s music was forgiving enough to not demand mimicry but give someone else a platform to find and utilize their own style. So while Michael may perform many of the familiar hits and lesser-known treasures, what he also brings to the table may be a shift in the rhythm and tempo, a tweak to the key, a major stylistic mash-up. The performance really represents that exact point when you stop leaning on the familiar, and take flight under your own wings. There’s one foot on the ground and one in the air.


I have a young nephew who has just entered his teens, and he is blessed with an ability to perform and sing. I was glad I took him along tonight to hear this story, such that he might have a glimpse of how the road might rise before him. And that he know the importance of finding musical heroes who can give you both solace and inspiration, but more importantly, compel you to find your own voice.

The last performances of this show for Adelaide Fringe are on the 5th March and 12th March at the A Club Loft.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 2nd 2019 | Filed in Cabaret,Music,People,Reviews | Comments (0)

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