Sparkling and sexy disco cabaret
By Bradley Storer
Even before the show began, the atmosphere at the opening night of Velvet was electric. Upon entering, the audience was immediately drawn into the hedonistic disco era through the beats being spun out by music director Joe Accaria on the deck above the stage. The opening image was stark and sudden – centre-stage, a young innocent-seeming man (Brendan Maclean), ukulele in hand and unsure of himself, drawn into the seductive world of a Studio 54-esque dance party filled with bright lights and sequins, the quintessential ‘Boogie Wonderland’, bringing us along with him like Alice down the rabbit hole.
Velvet is not a traditional narrative theatre piece, but rather a variety-show combining music, song, fabulous costumes and incredible acts of acrobatics and aerial feats, held together by the Dionysian atmosphere of classic disco and the incredible charisma of the performers. After the opening Mirko Kockenberger launched us into the spirit of evening with an wonderful character act that combined acrobatics and strip-tease, channelling a sexy and cheeky energy that provoked the audience into a near frenzy.
Fellow acrobats Emma Goh and Stephen Williams would each have their own moments to shine across the rest of the evening, with amazing aerial acts that combined both of their talents, a highlight being their S&M-themed ballet in the air. Performer Craig Reid was quite possibly the biggest scene-stealer of the night: as a short chubby man dressed in sequined lycra, he was not the traditional image of burlesque glamour. But he wowed the audiences with such stunning hula-hoop skills and an impish and utterly joyful magnetism that you couldn’t help but watch him every second.
From the moment Marcia Hines, as the disco ‘fairy godmother’ of the evening, steps onstage she completely commands the audience. She takes centre stage and tears through numbers like ‘Never Knew Love Like This Before’ and ‘It’s Raining Men’ with such authority that you want to bow down before her. Hines is backed up by two wonderful singers, Chaska Halliday and Rechelle Mansour, who dance up a storm and send chills up your spine with their vocals in their own songs.
Maclean as the young man whose journey and transformation loosely ties the show together is completely charming, with a wonderful and emotive voice that truly comes into its own during the show’s more emotional moments. His blossoming into a fabulous disco creature of the night allows him to unleash his own wild stage presence that burns just as bright as that of Hines.
A daring attempt to fuse elements of cabaret, circus and burlesque, Velvet is a massive success, creating a spectacular world that thrills at every moment and is infused with such glamour, sex and excitement that you just want to visit it again and again!
Venue: The Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt St, Southbank
Dates: 23rd March – 17th April
Image by Daniel Linnet