Presented by Megan Doherty
Reviewed 22nd February, 2018
Megan Doherty does beautiful singing of interesting songs in an elegant venue, with a theme of creativity, sensitivity to one’s muse, and how performers stay both brave and vulnerable. The playlist is impressive. From Cole Porter via Jule Styne to Stephen Sondheim, and thence to those twin towers of contemporary Australian music theatre, Kate Miller-Heidke and Tim Minchin. You can’t complain about the variety of Doherty’s resources.
The cabaret starts with a slow, thoughtful, neatly-phrased Bye Bye, Blackbird (Ray Henderson’s 1926 classic). Doherty makes her way to the stage, dressed in a simple white sleeveless dress. Her hair is styled in understated retro fashion. There is no sense of artifice or hype. Doherty’s singing voice is beautifully balanced, clear, pleasingly resonant and with a clean onset. Her vocal technique would be a joy to any recording engineer.
After the song, Doherty explains that her show is in “chrysalis” stage, a work in progress. She is performing it in front of an audience so that she can assess where it needs to grow and go. I am so old I can remember performers doing shows in the Adelaide Fringe for precisely the same reason. The difference here is that Doherty is honest; she says it out loud.
The story on which Doherty hangs her cabaret is her optimistic visit to the UK a few years ago, the hardships she endured during her time there, with both work and relationships hampered by the fragility of her living circumstances, and also the repercussions of those two years overseas on her life since she has returned to Australia. There’s a hint that she’s still quietly in recovery.
She tells us that her songs are chosen for their ability to say what she finds hard to articulate. She sings Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway (Gerard, Benenate, Lavigne), with its aspiration of flying, then follows it up with a perky, sassy Miller-Heidke You’ve Underestimated Me, Dude, complete with operatic-quality ornamentation. Porter’s It’s All Right With Me is next, sung slowly, with restrained phrasing and great legit tone. After a bit more of the story we get a mere four bars of Styne’s Don’t Rain On My Parade. Just as I was getting into it, it morphs into a super-slow So In Love Am I, the Porter hit from Kiss Me, Kate. Finishing The Hat (Sondheim) is sung with delicacy and grace. Extraordinarily black and brutal, Hope, from Tim Minchin’s new musical Groundhog Day is a supremely well-crafted song, and a great choice for a singer/actor. Doherty finishes with a simple little Beatles tune. It’s the exquisite Blackbird (Lennon & McCartney); its dizzying swaps between 2/4 , 3/4 and common time. make it a complex gem. Both Doherty and her accompanist, Emma Knights, give the music due respect, and form it into a final multi-faceted gem.
Sitting at the little grand piano in this charming Exhibition Room is Emma Knights, éminence grise behind so much music in Adelaide. She accompanies Doherty with sensitivity and the sort of prescience that only fine accompanists ever achieve.
What this charming work-in-progress cabaret now needs is a director/dramaturg who uses all the emotionally rich material supplied by Doherty to craft a theatrically satisfying cabaret. She’s well on her way.
Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson
Rating out of 5: 4 stars
Venue: National Wine Centre – Exhibition Hall / Pod 3
Season: 22nd – 25th February 2018
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: Full Price: $20:00 Concession: $17:00