BWW Reviews: ADELAIDE CABARET FRINGE 2014: AN AU PAIR IN AMERICA Is a Cautionary Tale
Reviewed Thursday 26th June 2014
Carla Anita Mattiazzo recalls her trip to the USA in 2007, at the age of 21, to study and to act as a nanny for a wealthy family in, An Au Pair in America, but it is not what you might expect. If you have seen that dreadful television programme that makes you long for the sweet sound of fingernails on a blackboard, with a character who becomes a nanny to some perfect children, and who marries the handsome widowed father, the reality is going to come as an awful shock, as it did to Carla Anita.
She expresses her optimism in the first song, a few bars of The Perfect Nanny, which was sung by the children in Mary Poppins, expressing their views on the attributes that they would like in their next nanny. That optimism will be short lived, as we quickly discover.
On arriving in America she meets the family, a very tall mother who spends all day in her pyjamas and Wellington boots, a father addicted to watching Youtube and rather too closely monitoring everything she did, and four very spoilt children, three boys and a girl, all under ten years old, and all running riot. They live on frozen microwave meals, a problem for a vegetarian, which leads to a few bars of Food, Glorious Food, from Oliver.
These short snatches of songs, though, started to wear a little thin after a while and, although there were longer sections, it left one wishing for more complete works. It became a narrative with very loosely connected snatches of song and, with only about an hour of material, a full length interval to do a quick costume change was unnecessary Since she continued to tell her own story, why she dressed in pyjamas and boots like the mother left one wondering what that was all about. In any case, anything under 90 minutes really doesn't justify an interval and just disrupts the flow.
The delivery of her monologue is rather stilted, too, with a long stream of phrases and pauses, rather than natural speech. One suspects that some strong direction is needed, and perhaps some dramaturgy, too, as later sections become a less than funny tirade against those appalling parents. There is potential in this work, but it needs to be brought out with the help of more experienced cabaret practitioners.
What is this Feeling?, from Wicked, describes her feeling for the father, and Mad Hatter, from Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure, was a good choice to describe the crazy and dysfunctional family as a whole. Thankfully, this was one of the full length songs, but I would have liked a bit more of My Lord and Master, from The King and I. Not all of the selections were show tunes, though, and Peter Allen's Don't Cry Out Loud, written with the wonderful Carole Bayer Sager as lyricist, was another of the full length numbers, leading to the interval.
Revolting Children, from Matilda, certainly suited her description of the four little horrors that she was faced with, and Spoonful of Sugar, from Mary Poppins, is the antithesis of what actually happened, and Elton John's I Know the Truth fits in well.
All of these songs are performed with clarity of diction and good vocal control, enhanced by the collaboration of accompanist, Deborah Brennan and, with a little more rehearsal and polishing this could develop into a much stronger piece.