BWW Review: CABARET FRINGE 2017: DIAMOND LIVES, PICTURE BOOKS at The Jade

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Sunday 11th June 2017.

Diamond Lives, Picture Books began with a set from the supporting duo, Orelia, composer, Chelsea Turner, on vocals and keyboard, and TRoy Benson on drums and backing vocals. The influence of "Brechtian punk cabaret" star, Amanda Palmer, who, with the drummer, Brian Viglione, was the dark cabaret duo, The Dresden Dolls, was immediately noticeable, and Turner was quick to acknowledge this. Like the Dresden Dolls, this duo employs costuming and makeup, Benson sporting a man bun, hipster beard, eye makeup, and a pseudo-military jacket, and Turner in an eclectic collection of clothing. There are even some overtones of another duo, The Pierces, in Orelia's songs.

The Dresden Dolls had stylistic links back to German Kabarett in the era of the Weimar Republic, and so it is with the songs of Orelia, who also slot into the dark cabaret genre. One can imagine the development into a full-length cabaret show, expanding on the interludes between the songs. As for the songs, they were all the group's originals aside from one, the Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse number, Feeling Good, from the 1964 musical, The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd, that has since been recorded by many artists, including Nina Simone, whose version prompted its inclusion in this programme, although Orelia's version was all their own.

Their original songs had great variety and individuality, with excellent accompaniment scoring, and a CD is available to take their music home with you. I did. The originality and imagination in the songs is immense and they cover a wide range of topics. Watch out for this duo, they are going places.

Following the interval, the two Adelaide singers, Diana Scalzi and Ben Gatehouse, presented a selection of what they described as the more sophisticated songs from the 1980s, taking turns with lead and backing vocals, and with Scalzi adding guitar on a few of the numbers. They were backed on some numbers by Aidan McDonough on the keyboard and Enrico Mick Morena on drums. In contrast to the first act, this was a move into modern cabaret style, with Champagne a more appropriate accompanying drink than Absinthe, which would have surely suited Orelia's work.

Two very fine voices joined in mutual love for the songs amounted to an hour of music that had wide appeal, and certainly pleased the audience. Opening with Gatehouse singing Peter Gabriel's Big Time, then Scalzi with Sade's Ever Changing Moods, we were treated to a packed production and commentaries on each of the numbers and their composers. The works chosen were outside the mainstream, with influences from a range of genres including jazz, blues, soul, and more. All, of course, were then reinterpreted by this talented duo, with the assistance of their two backing musicians.

There was plenty of variety, with music from Simply Red, Crowded House, and Kate Bush, and songs including Fall at Your Feet, Running Up That Hill, No Ordinary Love, and Smooth Operator. The audience loved it. The two were not allowed to leave without providing the encore that patrons demanded.

You have a chance to catch this double bill Cabaret Fringe show on the 16th June, but this performance was sold out, so don't delay.

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From This Author Barry Lenny

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