Friday 19 May 2023

BEYOND THE BEEHIVE - AMY WINEHOUSE'S MUSICAL MASTERY: Music Review

WHAT: Beyond The Beehive - Amy Winehouse's Musical Mastery
WHEN: 18 - 21 May 2023
WHERE: The MC Showroom (Main Stage)
CREATED BY: Carol Whitfield
MUSICAL DIRECTION BY: Ryland Sack
PERFORMED BY: Christine Rathjens, Rachel Reyes, Ryland Sack, Lucy Varley, and Carol Whitfield

Ryland Sack, Carol Whitfield, Rachel Reyes, Christine Rathjens and Lucy Varley

Amy Winehouse is one of the infamous 27 Club - famous musicians who died at at the age of 27. In her short life though, she made a global impact as a singer/songwriter spanning genres and fusing past influences with current ones. In Beyond The Beehive - Amy Winehouse's Musical Mastery, now playing at The MC Showroom, Carol Whitfield takes us through Winehouse's greatest hits and, along the way, gives us a masterclass on the singer's influences and impact.

Starting from that timeless standard 'Rehab', Whitfield and her lively band cover all the key musical check marks which exemplify the range of Winehouse's works. This includes originals such as 'Stronger Than Me' through to covered masterpieces like 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow' and a whole slew of songs which fall somewhere along that spectrum. Across the course of the evening you can enjoy 'Valerie', 'Back To Black', and 'Love Is A Losing Game'

Along the way Whitfield doesn't focus a great deal on the biographical details of Winehouse's life - which is refreshing because that is what everyone else does. Instead she talks about the styles and masters which influenced the singer's development as a jazz and pop artist. Whitfield talks about how Winehouse pioneered a cross-form musical style which fused jazz, blues, pop, hip hop and just about everything in between. 

The thing I liked best about Beyond The Beehive is Whitfield didn't talk down to us as an audience. She was clearly knowledgable about (and perhaps a little bit in love with) Winehouse, and her intention is for us to see the artist as the musical genius she perhaps was, and not just the tragic pop icon which grabbed the headlines.

Whitfield is a masterful singer in her own right. She doesn't have those natural deep, smooth, resonant tones which mark Winehouse's amazing voice, but she is extremely talented and pitch perfect across the entire repertoire.Whitfield's talents are supported and enhanced by a band who are masters in their own right and have as much fun (in that jazz kind of way) with the material as Whitfield has in bringing us this music. 

The stories and music this wonderful ensemble bring us are funny as well as sad and remind us that there is a wealth of musical potential never realised due to Winehouse's early demise.  I did notice the avoidance of discussion of the lifestyle choices which led to the death of this young singer. On the other hand, I was impressed with Whitfield and her care in contextualising the content problems with the song 'Stronger Than Me'. Whitfield schools us all in how to deal with problematic material in a more sensitive age without cancelling it or the artist.

The nights are very cold now, and there is no better way to fight SAD than to head to The MC Showroom and get a bit of Winehouse into you to warm your hearts and bones. This is the third iteration of this cabaret, and it loses nothing in the passage of time. Beyond The Beehive is a wonderful start to a Melbourne winter cabaret season.

4 Stars

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