Having been in Melbourne for at least a year now, I have to deliver due apologies for being so late to the Chapel off Chapel party! I double-dipped this past week for two fantastic shows which, while both being cabaret and featuring stage fantastics, sat at polar opposites of the genre’s spectrum. In one corner, TV and musical theatre front-woman Christie Whelan-Browne slips on the shoes of the one and only legendary pop-music-rollercoaster-train-wreck in Britney Spears: the Cabaret. In the other corner, an intimate and personal journey with David Harris to the soundtrack of musical theatre’s leading men from Captain Von Trapp to Peter Allen in Time is a Traveller.
Fully expecting Whelan-Browne’s Britney Spears to be musically impeccable, what really caught me off guard was that not only is the real Spears’ music incredibly powerful once you cut the synths and sometime insincerity to reveal them for the classic ballads they can be (except for I’m a Slave 4U-good call there Christie), but that her story is incredibly gripping when you are taken through her journey from virginal pop princess to working bitch. Whelan-Browne does a heart-wrenching job of drawing you into the humour of Britney then cutting to the cruel ironies and true tragedies of a girl who only wanted to be considered a woman. This is a must-see for Britney fans and foes alike, truly a redeeming and humbling (even haunting) show I almost wish Spears herself was performing for the sake of her credibility! Highlights include the pitch-perfect Toxic and Everytime, but I can’t go past the rendition of Sometimes that had my phlegmatic laugh in full cackle! Last night in Melbourne is the 10th so get into it!
Across the way in the loft, coming from absolute hilarity and character perfection, lies a performance so personal and endearing you almost want to just hold hands with the person next to you, stranger or no! I couldn’t tell you whether David Harris fans were any less passionate about the performance than Britney Spears fans in the other space, but I can say that the elderly couple in front of me kissing during the show was enough to make my heart explode. Here is your classic Aussie country boy made good: since growing up in the Hunter Valley of NSW, he’s now conquered or contributed to every leading man the Australian musical theatre scene has had to offer. We were treated to everything from Boy From Oz, to Miss Saigon to Legally Blonde. Intermingled with fun facts and personal anecdotes was the vocal perfection Harris has become famous for, a beautiful and sweet tone he makes look so effortless. And then Wicked star Amanda Harrison comes down the stairs for a special treat! Seeing my favourite Elphaba and Fiyero respectively finally reunited for As Long as You’re Mine was pretty knee-knocking. Lucky ducks in Newcastle still have a chance to have their hearts warmed by my favourites of the evening The Way You Look Tonight and Edelweiss. In addition, the RSL edit of This is the Moment is simply transporting, and his rendition of If I Only Had a Brain is the new backing-track of my happy place.
Time is a Traveller should be everyone’s priority before this phenomenal and even-more-phenomenally genuine performer takes his talents to the big Broadway smoke. You’re welcome.
NB: for those of you who do perform and are aware of your own sight lines where you are most familiar to look vaguely into the audience so you can connect with dark space, sitting in this guy’s sight line was the icing on this whole magic carpet ride.
Details can be found at