Tag: Keagan Vaskess

REVIEW: The Butterfly Club Presents THE LAST FIVE QUEERS

Robert Brown re-imagining is all about the music

By Myron My

More and more you hear people saying, “It’s a small world”. Thanks to modern living, our lives are becoming intertwined in ever-more varied and surprising ways. In The Last Five Queers, book by Adam Noviello & Madi Lee and music by Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown, we meet five individuals who are all connected with each other in some way. In this song-cycle cabaret, their relationships are all pushed to the forefront as they tackle the high and lows of being in love with someone and trusting another enough to give yourself over to them.

The Last Five Queers

There were some incredibly strong musical performances in the show. Keagan Vaskess as the woman in love with her best friend was exceptional with her songs. What is even more impressive is the confidence and emotion on display, considering she was only brought in five days ago after the original performer became unwell. The scenes between gay couple, Henry Brett and Jack O’Riley were just as accomplished however. The belting out of memorable numbers ensured their duets and solos were by far the highlights of the show. Rounding out the cast were Tim Carney and Lee who, despite their strong effort, were unable to affect me as much as Vaskess, Brett and O’Riley did. Their projection was not as successful, and for me their vocal range didn’t reach the breadth of the other three

Playing his own arrangements of Brown’s music was musical director Barnaby Reiter. I’ve seen Reiter perform in a number of cabaret shows over the years and it’s always a pleasant surprise when he appears on stage. He really is one of Melbourne’s great musical talents, playing with finesse and skill and really creating moments on stage for not only the audience to experience, but also for the performers to occupy.

While the cast shone in their singing, the acting is where some cracks surfaced. There were several awkward vignettes between songs, due to dialogue that sounded trite and acting that felt unnatural. There was not much authenticity in the portrayals and it felt everyone was just going through the motions: there was the lack of intensity from a spontaneous kiss, the lack of chemistry between loving couples and the lack of familiarity between siblings and friends.

I could have happily enjoyed Vaskess, Brett and O’Riley singing all night, and listened to Reiter play the piano. However, I was there to see The Last Five Queers, and as a whole, the show required some fine-tuning. The writing needed to be more genuine and organic and the acting side of this cabaret needed stronger direction. It’s still an enjoyable show but I will remember The Last Five Queers as more of a quick fling than a long-lasting relationship.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne

Season: Until 9 August | Tue-Sat 8:30pm, Sunday 8:00pm

Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc

Bookings: The Butterfly Club

REVIEW: The Songs of Mackenzie-Spencer and Strano

Once was not enough…

By Adam Tonking

Do you remember the musical revue? Not the latest incarnation where the greatest hits of a deceased or retired composer are swept together so the paying audience get to hear their favourites. I’m talking about an evening where a composer and lyricist team get to showcase their collection of stand-alone songs. Maltby and Shire come to mind. An evening with The Songs Of Mackenzie-Spencer and Strano was just like those glory days.

The Songs of Mckenzie-Spencer and Strano

And what’s glorious about this format is that each new song is its own story: a new character to meet, a new dilemma to be faced, and resolution in six or so minutes. This allows for the exploration of characters and situations that probably wouldn’t be sustainable over a longer work. And boy, did Mackenzie-Spencer and Strano explore some unchartered territory. From addiction to babies, to making incest work, to coping with discount airlines; the quirky situations seldom strayed from the continuing theme of overcoming obstacles. Mackenzie-Spencer and Strano just found them in places Maltby and Shire never dared.

And it was hilarious. Strano has a strong understanding of comedy in song, and Mackenzie-Spencer’s playful yet carefully crafted music elevates the bawdiest of joke to something golden. There were a few tender, more emotional moments, and the team were more than up to the task, to show that they are more than a comedy duo.

The cast were sublime. This was essentially a showcase for the brilliant creations of Mackenzie-Spencer and Strano, but I couldn’t leave without mentioning the cast. Rob Tripolino with his deft handling of incest, Andrew Broadbent with his gorgeous bass voice in “Weekend Getaway,” Stephanie Jones’ sweet awkwardness in “Sandwiches,” Mike McLeish selling the slow-burn story of “Crack Babies,” Keagan Vaskess – a last-minute replacement – who nearly stole the show with “Scientific View” a song about love as science fiction and “Still Waiting” about the expections of becoming an adult after reading Harry Potter, and finally Fem Belling who absolutely rocked the audience with “Kabaret,” a parody of the tropes of cabaret performance. I did feel like the cast could have used more time with the material, but I understand that a concert performance of new songs by new Australian writers would have limited resources to allow this. More’s the pity; the cast were more than capable, and the songs would have shone brighter.

Since this was a one-night only performance, and you won’t have the opportunity to see this show, I insist you take down the names of everyone involved and see everything that they do. Particularly Lochlan Mackenzie-Spencer and Andrew Strano, for there is a limited amount of support for original material for musicals in Australia. And they deserve the chance to become at least as famous as Maltby and Shire.

The Songs Of Mackenzie-Spencer And Strano played at Chapel Off Chapel on June 20th 2015 at 8pm. Since I’d normally give you details where to buy tickets, this time I thought I’d give you details to follow them. Twitter: MS&S (@MS_and_S) or Facebook: Mackenzie-Spencer & Strano