Morphium, A Kabarett, by Kim Smith – Cabaret Festival • Glam Adelaide

Morphium, A Kabarett, by Kim Smith – Cabaret Festival

This is definitely cabaret that embraces the dark side. This is an exceptional performance.


Kim Smith Morphium Cabaret FestivalPresented by the Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Reviewed Fri 18th June 2010

Venue: Artspace Gallery, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: finished
Duration: 60mins
Bookings for all Cabaret Festival shows: BASS 131 241 or

Australian born, New York based Kim Smith looks back to the German Weimar Republic for his inspiration. His accompanist, Amanda Hodder, entered first and played Mischa Spoliansky’s waltz, Morphium, as an overture to the performance. Russian born Spoliansky was a major composer in 1920s and 30s Berlin, musical director at Max Reinhardt’s Keller-Kabarett of the “Grosses Schauspielhaus” and later became a prolific film composer and this piece, superbly played by Hodder, set the tone nicely for what was to follow.

As if to put the audience immediately on the back foot as far their expectations of what he would offer, his first song was not, as might be expected, one that is strongly associated with German Kabarett, but instead he sang Nat ‘King’ Cole’s Nature Boy, although in a version far removed from the original. He sings in French and German, as well as English of course, during the performance and, although some songs are by composers traditionally associated with the era and location, others that would not be expected are given a reworking to fit the style, and there are some big surprises to be had there.

Friedrich Hollaender’s Jonny, Wenn Du Geburtstag Hast? followed, taking us back to the traditional 1920s Kabarett and a momentary feeling of comfort and familiarity, but he suddenly segued into a most unusual version of the 1966 hit, You Keep Me Hanging On. We are thrown to and fro through time, from Hollaender’s 1939 Black Market, to 1977 for Song of Black Max, to 1940 for Hôtel, by Francis Poulenc, to 1954 for Once Upon a Summertime to 1929 for Peter, Peter, to 1958 for Dance Only With Me, and eventually to 1928, via a short reference to What Shall we Do with the Drunken Sailor, for Kurt Well’s wonderful Pirate Jenny.

Smith gives each song his own stamp, accentuating them with his movements and facial expressions, sometimes giving lyrics a meaning far removed from the innocent intentions of the composers. This is definitely cabaret that embraces the dark side. Smith has the audience in the palm of his hand from the moment that he steps on stage to his final exit, whether on the stage or while working his way around the room, resting his hand lightly on the shoulders of men in the crowded venue.

From there we stayed mainly in the 30s and 40s, including more from Hollaender and Weill, although he made a huge leap in time to sing Amada Palmer’s 1998 song, Missed Me, giving a very edgy interpretation, displaying that sinister smile that seems to suggest deviousness and impending danger. Even Somewhere Over the Rainbow gets an airing, in an eerily reworked version, of course.

Smith has proved to be a big hit at this year’s Cabaret Festival, for good reason, and it is not uncommon to overhear snippets of patrons’ conversations whilst walking around the Festival Centre, all speaking of him in glowing terms. His is an exceptional performance with a wicked edge and a high degree of professionalism and polish. There is no doubt that we will be hearing more of him and he is certain to make return appearances in future Cabaret Festivals.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor Glam Adelaide.

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