Saturday, June 22, 2013

Homemade Fusion

"HOMEMADE FUSION is a series of musical snapshots from the imaginations of Michael Kooman (music) and Christopher Dimond (lyrics). Each snapshot attempts to make sense of an increasingly senseless world by examining the paradox of modern times. At once dangerously cynical and desperately romantic, it is a tale of love, loss, and candy bars."

I can't really come up with a better description of the show than they one they provide - so I'm not going to try.

On paper this show certainly had a lot going for it; the musical director is Aaron Nash, who in the last few years has made a name for himself with his Tom Waits tribute show New Coat of Paint (a great show I saw in 2012), the highly acclaimed Tears on My Pillow shows and – demonstrating his breadth – composing music for the multi-award-winning University of Adelaide Theatre Guild production of The Pillowman.

Then you add the performers – Brady Lloyd, Claire McEvoy, Rachel Rai and David Salter, four hugely talented young people with well-earned reputations in the Adelaide musical theatre community; I've seen all of them before and have been impressed every time.

So, I had some pretty high expectations – even though I'm still deciding how I feel about song cycle shows, which are kind of half cabaret/half musical theatre and I tend to prefer the latter more because of the greater focus on narrative1.

And I wasn't disappointed.

The songs themselves are great: clever, funny, sweet and poignant – and the selection does an excellent job of highlighting and contrasting those aspects. When you put them in the hands of a talented group like these four performers – with the arrangements and accompaniment of Aaron Nash and his band (Nash on keys, Luke Ciaramella - electric and acoustic guitar, Milush Piochaud - bass, Matt Crago - drums and Seb Mansell - cello), they sound amazing and (courtesy of Rodney Hutton behind the desk) are perfectly balanced in the intimate space upstairs at TACSI.

What also makes this work is the depth of the characterisation – they aren't just singing the songs, they're acting them, and acting them well.

My favourites were Oh Henry!, a song about candy bars2 sung by Rachel; Brady's Walking Without Out You, a moving number that he absolutely nailed; The Temp and the Receptionist, workplace romance done superbly by Claire and David and using every stationery-related euphemism you can think of (and probably a few more); and Sherman and Madeline, an exceptionally cleverly-written3 and outrageously funny song about a woman whose tastes in the bedroom are a little too...confronting for her boyfriend. It's made even more hilarious by the fact the filthy desires are being expressed by the pixieseque Rachel Rai as Madeline - and that Brady, as Sherman (the boyfriend), sits next to her throughout with a baffled expression on his face.

It's a great cabaret show. Sadly, it's only on for one more night (tonight, June 22 at the TACSI; see here for details) - but there's always the possibility that they'll do a return season.

And it's also a good reminder that at the same time as the Adelaide Cabaret Festival is bringing amazing international superstars like Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel to town, the Cabaret Fringe Festival is complimenting that by showcasing the depth of Adelaide's local talent – of which this is a perfect example.

1There's probably a better way to describe song cycles than this, but I don't want to turn this an essay on genre. The best analogy I can come up with is that it's a book of short stories compared to a novel.
2That's the name of a candy bar, by the way. The song features mostly brands that aren't so well known in Australia, but it's funny nonetheless.
3It has a distinct Tom Lehrer feel to it, and I loves me some Tom Lehrer.

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