Cabaret Festival Review: Larissa McGowan – Cher

Larissa McGowan lists an impressive cohort of collaborators for this show


Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre in Association with Vital Statistix
Reviewed 19 June 2019

Larissa McGowan lists an impressive cohort of collaborators for this show, herself as Creator, choreographer and performer; Steve Mayhew as co-creator and sound designer; Sam Haren as co-creator and dramaturg; Kialea-Nadine Williams as rehearsal director; Roz Hervey as movement consultant/outside eye;  Jonathon Oxlade and Renate Henschke as set and costume designers; Chris Petridis as lighting designer; and Tom Roschi for Photo and Jonathon Oxlade for Illustration, one presumes for the Festival programme design.

One would have expected that with such an impressive list of collaborators and the support of Vital Statistix and The Performance Art and Development Agency, there would be an impressive show. Well, this one failed to leave any lasting impression. I was looking forward to this show, I have seen Cher perform live and have followed her career as she has transformed countless times throughout her impressive career, each time rising to a new level of excellence as a singer and actor and a producer. She’s unique and has provided a really interesting, and varied, choice of image and a wealth of material to choose from. She is an icon. I get the idea of using these stimuli to base a contemporary dance piece on that reflects transformation and aging as a female artist. The premise as it is described in the programme would interest a lot of people to go and see the show.

There was a real buzz of excitement waiting for the show to start. The instantly recognisable Cher fringing that graced the back of the performing area provided the perfect backdrop. Lisa McGowan entered in the instantly recognisable outfit Cher wore in the music video for If I Could Turn Back Time famously recorded on the battleship USS Missouri. Wow, really great start, then Ms McGowan lip-synched a number and did some Cher like movements that were neither contemporary dance nor anything much more than I could have seen in a gay bar, probably lip-synced more realistically by the resident drag queen.

I really found the premise that had been outlined in the programme was missing from most of the journey of the evening. There was no narrative in the recordings that were used that made any sense of the use of Cher as an icon for transformation and aging. If you’re going to lip-sync to songs and movie tracks at least make them relevant to the journey you purport to take. The listing of a dramaturg should indicate there is some understanding of the need for this. Two co-creators, a rehearsal director and a consultant/outside eye could surely have given this piece of work more substance and direction. I found it flawed, rather haphazardly put together and not very interesting. At times the original soundtrack that accompanies a large part of the work became unbearably loud – I have never been a great fan of deafening your audience into submission.

I must say the set is inspired and the costumes are excellent and are based on authentic designs that Cher has worn; but there must be something else that drives a piece of work like this if it is to fulfil its vision. Back to the drawing board, I think. The loyal followers of Ms McGowan cheered her on but there was a noticeably quiet crowd leaving the space.

Reviewed by Adrian Barnes

Rating out of 5: 3 – missed its mark.

Venue: Space Theatre 
Season: Wed, 19 Jun 2019, 7:00PM Thu, 20 Jun 2019, 9:00PM
Duration: 1 hour 10 mins                                                                                                                                Tickets: Premium Adult $51.90 A Reserve Adult $46,90, Conc 41.90


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