Last night saw the opening of two musical theatre productions minted from two very different sides of the same coin.
Up first was Velvet, playing at Auckland’s Q Theatre.
This production was being touted as “a raucous and seductive fusion of disco, dance, and circus”. As such, I was expecting a fairly routine rundown of late 70s disco hits with a bit of dancing and some flashy lights. Being someone who leans more to punk than disco, I went along with low expectations.
But those expectations turned out to be misguided.
Yes, there were pumped up versions of dance hits by The Bee Gees, Chic and Donna Summer…but there was so much more!
The nine-person cast really worked hard to entertain and there was some serious talent on display within the group.
Along with the singing and the dancing, there was quite a bit of the “circus” element and that was exemplified by Craig Reid, aka Hula Boy, who literally had audience members jaws dropping with his hula-hooping skills. I know it sounds strange, but you really need to see him to believe him. Also impressive were acrobat Mirko Kockenberger and muscle man Stephen Williams.
On the musical side, Australian singer Tom Oliver delivered a stirring disco-fied version of Gordon Lightfoot’s If You Could Read My Mind and a stripped down rendition of Stayin’ Alive.
Backing vocalists and dancers Kaylah Attard and Rechelle Mansour added plenty of sizzle and “disco diva” Marcia Hines sounded fantastic, although it looked like she might have been ailing physically…her movement seemed somewhat impaired.
I highly recommend catching this show while it’s in town.
Directly after Velvet, we walked next door to the Town Hall where The Sound Of Falling Stars was premiering.
All I knew about this production was that it dealt with the music of artists who died early.
The show began abruptly with a loud cockney voice snarling at the audience. It was “Sid Vicious” as played by Australian actor/musician Cameron Goodall.
“Sid” quickly morphed into Elvis, singing Are You Lonesome Tonight backed by two musicians…George Butrumlis (accordion) and Enio Pozzebon (keyboards).
From there it became clear this was going to be something of a one-man show with Goodall taking on just about every male singer who died in the past 60 years.
So, over the course of the show we were treated to impersonations of everyone from Hank Williams and Mario Lanza to Ian Curtis and Jeff Buckley.
To his credit, Cameron Goodall proved to be up for the task. He especially shone when portraying tortured singer/songwriters such as Nick Drake, Tim Buckley and Phil Ochs. Along the way he ended up featuring close to 30 artists including John Lennon, Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke and Gram Parsons.
There was only one cringe-worthly moment…when Goodall attempted to replicate Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tenderness.
There was a narrative that ran through the programme, with various characters such as Vicious, Ochs or Cobain commenting on the price these artist pay for creating their art.
It’s a show that could have been maudlin and tacky, but fortunately reached for something greater and oftentimes got there.
Velvet runs until October 1st, The Sound Of Falling Stars runs until September 24th. Click here for more info and tickets.