Cabaret Festival

Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Project – 2012 Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Presented by 2012 Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Reviewed Saturday 9th June 2012

This production was about as far from being a cabaret performance as one could possibly get. It was, in fact, just an illustrated biographical lecture. Author, James Gavin, stood at a lectern to one side of the stage, reading sections from his book, Stormy Weather: The life of Lena Horne. On a large screen were projected slides of Lena Horne at various stages in her life, and occasional recordings of a number of her performances, and part of a speech that she made at a Human Rights rally. Mary Wilson, who was a founding member of The Supremes, got to sing a handful of songs with pianist, Larry Dunlap, and a couple of local musicians on bass and drums. It was all interesting enough, but hardly the personal and engaging performance that a cabaret show should be. A lot of work on the text with a blue pencil, a livelier presenter, and much more live music would have helped a lot.

The event was also plagued with technical problems, including starting over ten minutes late, unforgivable in a festival such as this, when people have just enough time to get from one performance to another, always assuming that everything runs to the advertised times. Needless to say, it also ended late. Having another performance to attend right around at the Festival Theatre I was forced to exit as Mary Wilson came to the final notes of Stormy Weather, which I guessed was the end of the show. I had no time to stay to find out if there was any more to come, or to applaud her rendition of the song.

There were a number of late or incorrect lighting cues, the worst and most obvious being when Wilson, sitting doing nothing beside the piano while waiting for her next chance to sing, was beautifully lit when, unfortunately, Gavin was in complete darkness dryly reading another chunk of his book. Wilson wore some elaborate dresses and wigs, but was late on her entrances, singing from the wings at the start of numbers, presumably because the costume changes took too long.

Pianist, Larry Dunlap, and the other members of the trio, local musicians, Paul Jankovic on bass and Yuri Markov on drums, provided some excellent instrumental numbers and accompaniment to Wilson’s vocals and she sang wonderfully in that husky voice, reinterpreting the songs with a modern influence, rather than merely trying to imitate Lena Horne, although it seemed odd that she was reading the lyrics, considering the show has been running a long time now. With no real attempt to connect with the audience, the live portion of the production was, by far, the most engaging part of this lecture.

This was a rather disappointing and technically flawed performance that, frankly, was not even remotely a cabaret show.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

Cabaret Festival: Stormy Weather

Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: to 10th June, 2012
Duration: 1hr 10mins

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