LEATHER LUNGS: Happy Ending - Cabaret Review
WHEN: 12 - 15 October 2023
WHERE: Trades Hall (Common Rooms)
CREATED & PERFORMED BY: Leather Lungs
Every so often you go along to cabaret and get blown away from the moment the house lights go down to when they come back up. It's not as often as we would wish, but one such experience is Leather Lungs: Happy Ending at Fringe Hub, Trades Hall.
Leather Lungs has a 4-octave vocal range (for real!). Leather Lungs has the vocal power and grit of Aretha Franklin, the sweet vocal lightness of Mama Alto, and the deep baritone of James Earl Jones. Leather Lungs also has jokes coming a mile a minute, enough cartoon voices to do his own Warner Brothers cartoon show, and enough pathos to bring the room to tears.
Leather Lungs: Happy Ending starts like a lot of other drag cabaret shows. The artist comes on stage with a power melody, there are sparkles and spangles as well as an array of ass jokes and splayed legs. Right from the start though, we know Leather Lungs is something special because this artist does not hide their talents. None of them (wink, wink).
If I had to find a criticism, it would be that Leather Lungs does all of their vocal gymnastics from the very first to the very last song with a couple of notable exceptions I will mention later. All the vocal talent and gymnastics are brought out right away and in a way, this means we have nothing left to look forward to except song selection and what is hopefully a good yarn (and it is, believe me).
The power of the vocals belies the vulnerability of the person singing and it is breath-taking how generous Leather Lungs is with their personal story of horrific domestic abuse. They counteract this with intensely joyous and loving stories about their family in Aotearoa which begins by explaining that mum makes all their costumes. Leather Lungs cries honest tears of love as they talk about leaving their nephew behind before breaking into the most glorious - and funniest - version of 'Old MacDonalds Farm' you are ever likely to hear.
There are two songs in this show which really stood out to me because of their honesty and simplicity. These two songs have no gimmicks. The first is an ode for their parents who are in the audience, and the second (ABBA's 'The Winner Takes It All') is an homage to survival.
Leather Lungs hits all the bangers including 'It's Raining Men' and 'The Voice'. I suspect 'The Voice' is standard repertoire but it couldn't be more powerful or potent at this point in time in Melbourne and Leather Lungs demands (theatrically, of course) that we take part in the song, just as we are about to take part in the biggest decision of the century for us.
Leather Lungs is an amazing vocalist and an outrageous and authentic performer. You will have to look far and wide to have a night so rousing and yet elegant in places.