It starts with a slowly rising, sombre yet tense, piece of music. A mysterious flamboyantly dressed figure moves through the candle-lit tables. Suddenly everything rises to a crescendo and the self proclaimed “Dame” Catherine Alcorn throws off her veil and belts out a power tune to shake the house down.
Alcorn’s world premiere of Nothing but a Song is an incredible cabaret show. It is raunchy, wild, energetic and hilarious, with one of Australia’s most powerful voices at the head.
Alcorn seems unstoppable. She only busted into cabaret three years ago but already commands respect and attention like a twenty-year veteran. It’s understatement to say that Alcorn is a larger-than-life personality. She is charismatic and powerful on stage, with a well-developed voice to match. She displays great confidence and a quick wit when she interacts with the crowd, going so far as to take glasses of champagne from people’s tables. No one seems to mind though. Singing is thirsty work!
Nothing but a Song features many crowd favourites, including songs by Red Hot Chilli Peppers, David Bowie and Muse. It is a show with all the sensual trappings of cabaret but with a heavy rock and roll influence that, as the Cabaret Festival guide boasts, will take you on a mood-altering musical journey. Marty Hailey’s musical direction (and guitar playing) is absolutely top-notch. Arrangement by Andrew Worboys and direction from Paul Capsis must also be thanked for what is a beautifully crafted show.
While most of the show is energetic and boisterous, more sombre bits, such as when Alcorn recites her grandmother’s romantic poetry, are absolutely enchanting. It really is an emotional rollercoaster of a show, with some naughtiness thrown in for good measure.
Alcorn’s band is the strong backbone of the performance. The Voice of Transition Choir are great back-up singers and also eager to go along with Alcorn’s acts. Bev Kennedy is an excellent and professional pianist, and Jane Cho is an incredibly talented violinist. Cho and Hailey’s brief instrumental piece is as rock and roll as it can get in ‘cabaret’. Cho’s light-up violin was not wholly important to the show but, come on, who doesn’t think a glowing violin is cool?
While not overly spectacular, the show is good technically as well. Lighting adds atmosphere and liveliness, and sound quality is superb. There were a few little hitches with volume at the beginning, but no problems were noticeable after that. Costumes are simple, yet effective, with an almost psychedelic, futuristic feel to them. Alcorn’s two mid-show costume changes are pulled off well, and her outfits (one of which is not much more than a corset and stockings) absolutely stunned the crowd.
Catherine Alcorn’s Nothing but a Song seems like it’s in a whole other dimension; a cooler dimension with awesome music playing all the time. It is a show that definitely deserved the standing ovation and encores!
Reviewed by James Rudd
Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William St, Adelaide
Season: 11-13 June 2014
Duration: 1 hour 10 minutes
Tickets: $34.90 – $44.90
Bookings: Book online through the Adelaide Cabaret Festival website or phone BASS on 131 246