BWW Reviews: TALES OF A USED CAR SALESMAN
There are clichés aplenty about used car salesmen, with most referring to their stereotypical reputations of dubious character and questionable integrity. So naturally, when you hear of a used car salesman doing a cabaret act the alarm bells are more than ringing. In fact they are blaring in all directions. How can you possibly trust a promotional paragraph penned by a salesman that promises so much? Cynicism abounds, as you wonder if you have been caught up in the market for lemons. However, it soon becomes apparent that if the used car salesman is Drew Collet you can breathe an easy sigh of relief. Tales of a Used Car Salesman is nothing but a smooth drive that will have you rushing to the box office for further details and the sticker price for a ticket to his next show.
Over the course of one hour Drew takes his audience inside the life of a used car salesman. His material provides a continuous source of enjoyment for those within the intimate confines of the Butterfly Club. On the night I viewed the show it seemed as though this was in fact the ideal venue for Drew, with the theatre close to full and an excitable and effervescent atmosphere clearly prevailing amongst patrons. Clearly the salesman had worked his spin and got a most respectable crowd through the doors. The remaining question was whether he could complete the deal - something that was most certainly accomplished.
In many ways Tales of a Used Car Salesman is the epitome of cabaret in its ideal form, with just Drew and a piano accompaniment. Opening with a reworked number from the stage show Oliver, the tone of the evening is quickly set and the audience is soon onboard with their belts fastened ready to go. Drew's segue delivery is highlighted by an engaging mix of enthusiasm and realness, with a slight touch of humility thrown in for good measure. Whether sitting on the bar stool on stage, making his way down the aisle of the theatre, or propped up against the piano, there is a natural sense of a showman in that is on display. Such theatrical flair seemed most evident as Drew recounted a hilarious tale of selling to overseas customers, with his body language, character voices, and mannerisms conveying the story in such a manner that the audience hardly had the chance to stop chuckling. You quickly realize Drew is a people-person, whether engaging customers or entertaining and being in the spotlight.
Drew's story largely consists of his reflections on the diverse mix of customers he has encountered in his professional life. As the various stories unfold - including tales of obsessed clients, ill equipped drivers, and intolerable colleagues - his innate ability to find humor in his day-to-day existence becomes readily apparent.
Complimenting the humorous dialogue is a collection of songs that have been cleverly crafted to blend in with the stories. While the tunes may often sound familiar, the lyrics have been re-crafted by Drew to suit his own given circumstances. This heightens the personal element of the show while also adding to the entertainment value. The laughs and cheeky chortles from the audience are derived from both the inherently funny nature of the material and the personal intellectual challenge of recognizing the tunes that have received the Collet make over.
Sophie Weiss, Drew's music director and partner, provided the piano accompaniment for the songs. This added a charm to show, since I do believe that there is something uniquely simple and compelling about singing to a piano accompaniment. As simple as it was, the beautiful percussion sound of the piano represented an element of purity, something that can be easily lost in modern day music. Drew was able to project his voice well enough to overcome any need for amplification, with the result being a most pleasant natural sound. There were no smoke and mirrors needed for this natural salesman turned performer.
Actually, natural is a word that can be applied to many dimensions of Drew's performance. He is clearly a natural people person, whether it is in the automobile or cabaret trade. As a performer he exhibited a natural ease and rapport with his audience and demonstrated both a polished exterior and a warm inner humanity that made him and his story likeable. There was also an obvious passion for both cars and his music.
Drew clearly enjoys what he does, with this reflected in his engaging performance that scarily made you question every stereotype and prejudice you ever held against those in the sales business. Tales of a Used Car Salesman is a rewarding piece of cabaret. With Drew at the wheel you are assured much laughs and enjoyment and a smooth journey - the want of every passenger. Fittingly, just like any trip in a fine vehicle, there will also be a touch of despair when the handbrake is pulled on and it is time to exit. But as you exit you realize that Tales of a Used Car Salesman is a vehicle that promises many more rewarding miles for perhaps the one used car salesman that you can trust.
WHEN: 18 August - 24 August
TIME: 8pm (19-20 August); 9pm (21-24 August)
PRICE: Full $28, Concession $25, Group (8+) $23, Tightass Tues $20
WHERE: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne, 3000
IMAGE CREDIT: Provided by Tom Dickins, The Butterfly Club