Sunday 23 June 2019

Age of Stephen - Cabaret Review

What: Age of Stephen
When: 20 - 23 June 2019
Where: Loft, Chapel Off Chapel
Written by: Stephen Valeri and Mark Wilson
Directed by: Mark Wilson
Performed by: Caleb Garfinkel, Kellie-Anne Kimber, Andrew Rousch, and Stephen Valeri
Stephen Valeri - photo by James Thomas
What would an Australian cabaret festival be without some form of homage to John Farnham? More Australian than Vegemite, Valeri brings his fantragic adoration to the stage of the Loft with Age of Stephen.

Whispering Jack is one of the great Australian albums of all time. In fact, it was the first Australian album produced on CD and not too long ago celebrated it's 30th anniversary by being re-released on vinyl. Well, I guess Australia has never been known as a forward thinking country...

Valeri first came across Farnham at the tender age of 3 when his parents took him to (a very age appropriate?) production of Jesus Christ Superstar in which 'The Voice' was singing the lead role of Jesus. In effect we get to blame his catholic upbringing for an obsession which few can live up to. Never fear though because Valeri has the range and ability to match Farnsy note for note - although noone can match his power of course.

Valeri believes he is the soul mate of Farnham and has trawled through the details of both of their lives to find the intersections of which there is more than 1 - which is very surprising! Perhaps the closest match is they both had a mullet. Famous for sporting a mullet almost surpassing Michael Bolton's, Farnsy's blonde locks are paired with the black, curly mullet of a 7 year old Valeri. Valeri admits to crying when his mum finally chopped them off.

As fun and tragic as Valeri's obsession with Farnham is, he is truly a great singer and in Age of Stephen he is backed by an impressive 3 piece band. Valeri tracks the musical career of Farnsy from the early days of 'Sadie The Cleaning Lady', through his time with the iconic Little River Band rocking the anthem 'Playing To Win', before taking us into 'The Age of Reason'.

One of the most beautiful moments was a tender medley with Kimber harmonising like an angel. I have always preferred Farnham's anthems to his ballads but Valeri and Kimber just blew me away with the beauty of their rendition of 'Please Don't Ask', 'Touch of Paradise', and 'Burn For You'.

We all know the song everyone has come to hear though, and the band tease and tease and tease but Valeri leaves us hanging about whether we are going to hear it. He does show some great footage of Farnsy appearing on stage with Celine Dion to sing it though.  Will he? Won't he? You will have to pop along to find out for yourself. In the mean time you can sing along to hits such as 'Chain Reaction' and 'That's Freedom'.

Age of Stephen is a fun, funny and classy tribute night to John Farnham. Even though Farnham keeps making come back tours he is probably getting a bit long in the tooth now and Valeri may very well be the closest you will ever hear vocally live on stage now. It is also kind of nice to experience his songs without the additional "with Olivia Newton-John" tag which seems to have become a permanent fixture. (Don't get me wrong, I love ONJ!).

4 Stars

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