Tag: cabaret

Science, Fires and Merri-May

Merri-May Gill performs at Club Bondi Junction
Merri-May Gill performs at Club Bondi Junction

“Have you seen Merri-May perform before?”, I was asked by the woman sitting near me at tonight’s show.

“Yes”, I told her… “Many times. I think I could be a groupie”.

I have only a fairly vague memory of the first time I met Merri-May Gill, though I suspect it’s probably about 10 years ago.

I was working in regional radio at the time. And I recall her debut CD came demonstrating great song-writing and performing skills across a variety of genres, including comedy, jazz, folk and cabaret.

AND it was great to discover she was from regional NSW – she grew up near Brewarrina, went to school in Armidale and Mittagong, and university in Bathurst – which was right up my alley.

Best of all? She was a great chick, to boot!

When I did my radio program from Bourke co-inciding with a visit by QE2, for example, she happily wrote and came and recorded a song, “The Queen Is Coming To Bourke”. Fun stuff.

Ten years on, and she’s still making me laugh and smile with her songs.

Tonight’s opening number, for example, had the filthiest lyrics about all of the things she’s not into because she’s a “nice girl from the country”.

Another new song was about her desire to find “a good dog” for running about the farm which was delightful.

On stage she has a presence which comes elements of innocence and sophistication, gorgeous singing, and wonderful guitar playing.

Ten years on and she said tonight she’s performing now “just for fun” which is great. I think she’s a great performer, and if you ever see her coming your way, I’d recommend seeing her show.

Just minutes after her final song, I got a phone call from the Rural Fire Service updating me on some fires on the NSW South Coast. This was the other theme of the day, as I made and received calls, text messages and emails about what was occuring there.

Simon Marnie from 702 ABC Sydney speaks to Abbie Thomas at ABC Science Festival
Simon Marnie from 702 ABC Sydney speaks to Abbie Thomas at ABC Science Festival

And before that, I was up and at work for a mid-morning science extravaganza as the ABC doors were opened for a family science fun day.

The foyer was packed with more 10 year olds than I’ve seen in my life.

As a child, I remember the fascination I, too, had with science experiments. “The Curiosity Show”, with its regular science spots was a childhood favourite of mine.

But as much as I love the way scientists have grabbed public attention in recent years with the need for “science education” and “outreach”, I’m a little concerned, these days, that not enough emphasis is being placed on “arts education”.

For me, it’s all about the balanced human being. And it worries me a little that the utilitarianism of science and maths may have overtaken the life-fulfilling joy and satisfaction the arts can bring to the overall education of the young ones.

I hope there’s a few more Merri-Mays being encouraged to sing and write, and bring joy into people’s lives, as well as those who want to discover cures for cancer.

Tim Draxl

Michael Tyack and Tim Draxl at Supper Club
Michael Tyack and Tim Draxl at Supper Club

“Thanks for coming out tonight when you could have gone to the Bledisloe Cup” Tim Draxl declared at the opening of his show tonight, adding, “I don’t even know what the Bledisloe Cup is”.

There was only one bloke in the room who looked remotely interested in the rugby, and he was there with his girlfriend, and was possibly a relative, I thought.

The rest of the room was made up of middle-aged couples and lots of poofs, as you might expect. And those of us who have followed his career for quite some time.

The last time I saw Tim Draxl perform live he was twenty three years old.

At the time I concluded… “I reckon Tim Draxl could become one of our best musical theatre performers… a truly rounded gifted performer… he just needs to work on the “authenticity” thing… ”

Well, four years later, aged twenty-seven he seems to have taken my advice on board :) I’m sure he read my blog review…

Tonight’s performance at the Supper Club on Oxford Street was absolutely fantastic. There were quite a few moments when I got goose-bumps, and a couple of times when I was close to having a tear roll down my check.

I think the authenticity tonight came from many things, including maturity, but also his choice of songs which was excellent. As well as the jazz-standards you might expect, including an exemplary version of “My Funny Valentine”, he sang more modern songs, including a great Jeff Buckley song called “Lilac Wine“.

When I think more than I want to think
Do things I never should do
I drink much more that I ought to drink
Because it brings me back you

Neither Colin, nor Grant, nor I had heard this song before, but it’s definitely a beautiful song, and one I’d like to pursue further.

My Funny Valentine” in particular is a favourite of mine. In talking about the song, Tim mentioned that it was by Chet Baker, and that he would love to be in a movie about Chet Baker, though Leonardo di Caprio currently owns the rights to that particular story.

In contrast to four years ago, he seems to have found his own adult voice. Personally, I prefer the more maudlin, depressive numbers, and that’s when I think you really see his soul, but he’s also very good at the more uptempo, more typical “showtune”.

The whole premise for the show was the music and people who inspired him, hence the name “Under The Influence”. Seated in the audience were his mum and a former school teacher with whom he is still close. He also mentioned a dance teacher. All of them were influential in his almost precocious interest in the performing arts.

The three of us smiled in recognition at his youthful interest in Hollywood Musicals.

Although his between-song-patter still goes on a little too long, and is sometimes a little self-indulgent, that will undoubtedly improve with age. Hey, he’s 27 years old!

The music and the show, however, were sublime.

Bob Downe and friend at The Supper Club on Oxford Street, Sydney


I’ve just arrived home from a terrific night out with my friend Colin. The night started off at the Roslyn Oxley 9 Gallery in Paddington where there’s a new exhibition by Callum Morton. The art collectors group of which I’m a member has a piece … Continue reading Retrogras

Rate this:

Cumming at the Opera House

Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge

Every time I go to the Opera House I take a photograph of either the Opera House or the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Deep down, I know it’s provincial and parochial to photograph some so-called “world icons”, somehow holding on to a notion that Sydney is a “global city” whereas the other state capitals are “colonial outposts”. I recognise that, but I still think they’re great structures and they never fail to impress me with their beauty.

And so of course, tonight, heading off to see Allan Cumming at The Studio at the Sydney Opera House I did the same again.

It had been a reasonably frustrating day for me at work. I felt like I didn’t achieve all that much. I felt like everything I attempted to do was stifled in some way, shape or form. I felt a bit like a “mid ranking bureaucrat” whose sole jobs was to send/receive emails that didn’t actually achieve any resolution. Hopefully, everything I did today, however, will have some resolution reasonably soon.

And then after work I caught up with a couple of colleagues for a post-work drinks.

I couldn’t stay too long, though, as I’d made plans to meet Colin at Snakebean.

When I’d agreed to have dinner with Damien last night at Snakebean, I’d forgotten I’d agreed exactly the same thing with Colin tonight.

We were tight for time, though, so we only had the soft-shelled crab and some dumplings which we, pretty much, gulped down, ahead of catching a cab to the Opera House to see Allan Cumming.

No double entendre intended, by the way :)

I don’t know if I’ve ever actually seen him in a film. And I don’t know if he’s a terribly good actor. But I have seen him interviewed on various chat shows and I’ve always found him extremely entertaining. One of the most memorable occasions was on the Graham Norton Show, when he was extremely entertaining and extraordinarily funnily.

Tonight, he revealed Graham was a good friend of his, and he told a very funny anecdote about how Graham was at Dolly Parton’s theme park, Dollywood around the time of 9/11. Prior to the attacks, he told us Graham and Dolly had floated down a waterway at the park in rubber tubes singing “Islands In The Stream”. “Gay men in the audience are cumming”, he joked. And then, when the attacks occured, he told us, they halted Dolly Parton music on the public address system, replacing it with news coverage.

Actually, he did a fair deal of name-dropping tonight. When I met so and so. When I did thus and thus. He continued the theme throughout the show. But you never got the feeling he was “big noting” himself. You had the feeling he was totally shocked and stunned by the success he’d had, and the feeling these were stories along the lines of “you’ll never guess what happened to me”.

The anecdotes were a key part of the show, but so too was the music.

At times he sang really well, other times I thought he was okay. I found his quiet ballads lacking in a certain authenticity. I think it was sometimes about “hitting the notes” and not “hitting the meaning”.

But mostly, he nailed every song extremely well. In fact, there were two occasions when he sang when I had goose-bumps.

The first was when he sang “Where I Want to Be” from “Chess”, which he introduced, somewhat ironically as a tune by ABBA. I’ve heard a lot of versions of this song, and I can honestly say his was the best. Located in the musical, it’s very much based around the character. But when it was sung tonight, it was a lyric we could all relate to as we struggle with the struggle of life.

The other moment was when he sang “Mein Herr” from “Cabaret”. In the musical, it’s sung as a slow and seductive song, almost dismissive in a way. But when he sang it tonight, slowly, and often spoken with a thick Scottish accent, the song was very seductive. I ached with anticipation as he moved towards the lines about he was searching “inch by inch, man by man”.

There were a couple of times tonight when I wanted to jump up and applaud. The “mood” wasn’t there until the very end though. Still, the crowd gave him a standing ovation, and deservedly so.

“This has set a high bar for cabaret in Sydney”, I mentioned to Colin as we left the theatre tonight.

Afterwards, having a drink at the Opera House we talked about the show, with both of us concluding we had a great night. Very, very enjoyable. And very recommended.