Tuesday 25 June 2019

Death of a Demi Diva - Cabaret Review

What: Death of a Demi Diva
When: 22 - 23 June 2019
Where: Loft, Chapel Off Chapel
Written by: Willow Sizer
Composed by: Rachel Lewindon and Willow Sizer
Directed by: Jayde Kirchert
Performed by: Elijah Bradbury, Rachel Lewindon, and Willow Sizer
Willow Sizer
Death of a Demi Diva is one of those cabarets which will return and return because it is just good fun, clever, and has appeal across the generations. Created in 2017, it has just finished it's latest season at Chapel Off Chapel as part of the 2019 Melbourne Cabaret Festival.

Modelled somewhat on the iconic tragic character Norma Desmond from the movie Sunset Boulevard, Sizer has created her own aging tragic diva - Madame Darling. Dripping in furs, fabulousness, and Received Pronounciation to rival Patrick Stewart's, Madame is in the Loft to perform her grand farewell concert. The problem is nobody (not even the foyer servants) have any idea who she is.

We find ourselves at the tech rehearsal where Madame is in a fluster. Ute (Bradbury) seems to be missing and there is a strange young woman (Lewindon) on stage who has very disappointing fashion sense. "Modern." Madame is flustered and finds herself reaching out to Tech Man - I forgive her this because of her age - until Ute finally appears with her specially blended coffee to settle her nerves.

Madame has the little girl lilt and warble in her singing voice which was all the rage in The War Years early last century (think the singing voice of the original Disney Snow White film). Luckily her ability with pitch, range, and excessive vibrato cover up a complete inability to lyricise. With classic songs such as 'Every Time We Touch' (I get so hard...), 'Bosom Buddies', 'I'm Still Here', 'Clammy Boy' and the anthemic invitation of 'Come Along', Madame works her way through her play list whilst trying to find her spot light and her will to live.

Sadly, the conceit of Death of a Demi Diva doesn't really hold up and the middle of the show gets rather tedious. We lose the humour available in the concept of a tech run as Madame wallows rather too deeply in her melancholy and whilst the style of the music creeps forward into modern times (Sizer could absolutely do a Cher concert to die for), the momentum stalls - as has Madame's career.

It doesn't really pick up again until the second half of the hour when Sizer/Madame launches into a medley of our favourite divas including Bonnie Tyler, Dolly Parton and the inimitable Lady Gaga to name just a few. I should point out that apart from this section, all the songs are original compositions - evidenced by the outrageously bad lyrics!

Along the way, Madame does make some important points about the trajectory of careers for divas - especially in the 'good old days'. In that so called 'golden age', despite having the pipes of a goddess, Madame's choices were to become a model or an extra because "...us women are considered very harshly when playing in what are considered men's sports - and by men's sports I mean everything!" An aspect of great beauty and bravery in the character of Madame is her ability to cut incisively through issues of discrimination and neglect whilst maintaining an air of pained dignity and aloofness.

Death of a Demi Diva is a great show to take your parents and grand parents to. The older generation will love the return to the tunefulness of a bygone era which is unlikely to ever return, and you will enjoy the wit and humour of a woman of yesterday trying to come to terms with today's world. The show treads a fine line between pathos and parody and for the most part it lands well.

3 Stars

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