Cabaret Festival Review: The Weill File

Writing music alongside poet and fellow activist Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill would set the pace for Broadway musicals for decades to come.

Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 13 June 2016

Kurt Weill was, perhaps, one of the most important composers of the twentieth century. Writing music alongside poet and fellow activist Bertolt Brecht, Weill would set the pace for Broadway musicals for decades to come. In fact, Weill’s music is still finding its way into shows around the world and inspiring new generations of performers. His most famous work, The Threepenny Opera, is almost constantly in production in some corner of the world.

And so, to honour the legend, some of the Adelaide Cabaret Festivals biggest names have come together for a single night, lending their voices to a suitable homage show: The Weill File, musically directed by John Thorn.

Who better to MC this event than Robyn Archer, beloved South Aussie singer, writer, director and arts advocate? Archer actually sang in the Australian premier of Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins on the opening night of our lovely Space Theatre and also performed in The Threepenny Opera on a number of occasions. She knows her Weill, that’s for sure. Despite her skill, experience and natural charm, Archer spent most of this night, eyes down, reading off of a script, which took away from the spontaneity and fun. Her performance of the Weill classic, Mack The Knife, was a rollicking start to the show.

Eddie Perfect, who was the first performer after Archer to take the stage, started out a little wavering and lacklustre, but by the time he came back for his second song he had hit his stride and found that perfect, rumbling tone that his voice is seemingly built for. On the other end of the vocal spectrum was Ali McGregor. Her powerful soprano lent itself magically to some of Weill’s more melancholy songs.

Die Roten Punkte, the infamous “Berlin” punk-electro-art-rock duo, delivered an almost Nick Cave-Esque rendition of The Ballad of the Soldier’s Wife which left the audience reeling. The pair really managed to set a dire mood. To lighten things up, Hew Parham, of Rudi’s the Rinse Cycle, entered in glorious drag to sing a scornful and violent love-ballad, Madeline Kahn’s Das Chicago Song (a song inspired by the typical themes in Weill/Brecht’s works).

The stand-out performer in this tribute would have to be Barb Jungr. Her rendition of Surabaya Johnny was hilarious, not just because of the lyrics, but for her melodramatic, half-manic delivery.

It’s obvious that all on stage, orchestra and director included, have a passion for the work of Weill and Brecht and the wider Broadway genre. This passion was easy to see through their performance. They were having fun, and then extended out into the audience. This was not a dry, biographical homage, but a joyful night put together to honour a creative who brought so much to the industry.

Reviewed by James Rudd
Your Twitter: @james_wrr

Rating (out of 5): 4

One night only – Season ended


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