Presented by Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Reviewed 15 June 2019
Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood present a clever, insightful ‘Body of Work’ which is chock full of pathos, humour, amazing singing and manages to skewer, and show up to ridicule, the all too prevalent biases and misogyny in the world of musical theatre.
Imagine two performers working with their accompanist, the brilliant Benjamin Kiehne, on a new musical. As they search for all the standard parts of a musical – the opening number, the ‘I want’ song. the conflict and, of course, the love interest – we are treated to some wonderful harmonies in songs we all know and love from musicals as diverse as Calamity Jane, to Hairsprayto Cats – a seemingly perennial favourite with Marsden but less so for Wood.
As they reprise these classic songs, their sparkling wit satirises the position of women, particularly fat women, in the world of musical theatre. Wood describes in a very funny, but ultimately sad way how in auditions she has done, or even in assessments when still at university, her shape counted against her and she was told she would never be cast as a leading lady.
My favourite part of the show is when Wood and Marsden realise that all they have to do to get a great role in a musical – regardless of their looks or size – is to audition for the male roles. What follows is an hilarious tour de force as they serenade women in the audience while wearing the most ridiculous stuck on mustaches! We were treated to a tremendous version of Maria from West Side Storyas Wood managed to make the name Anastastia fit to the music – with due credit to Kiehne at the piano.
Excellent direction by Anthea Williams never lets the pathos go too far. The contrast of bleak moments with witty dialogue, humour and up beat songs serves to highlight these moments and share the awareness of the performers with the audience. Although Wood’s She Used to Be Mine from the musical Waitressleft me with tears running down my face.
The finale is a triumph with much credit to dance arranger Shondelle Pratt. We have heard Marsden suggesting all things Cats throughout the show, only to have all such ideas firmly squashed by Wood. So, when she appears in a leopard print onesie and cat ears, the audience cheered. Marsden and Wood demonstrated beyond doubt that fat women can be the stars of any musical.
If you can’t get to tonight’s show then catch them late night June 20-22 in the Spiegletent. Check it out at https://www.adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au/events/hot-gin-punch
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 5: 5
Venue: The Blue Room
Season: 15, 16 June at 6pm
Duration: 70 mins
Tickets: $46.90 Conc $36.90