A cavalcade of demented joys and powerful emotion
By Bradley Storer
After a lengthy COVID-enforced break from the stage, Australia’s own international cabaret sensation Meow Meow returns to Melbourne audiences accompanied by the hefty forces of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and long time fans of the self-destructive and self-aggrandizing diva will find plenty of pleasures here. Entering Hamer Hall in her typically chaotic manner (which almost results in her climbing Rapunzel-like down a make shift rope from the balcony), Meow Meow clambers through the crowd whilst discarding layers of costume until finally she bares herself – physically and emotionally – before the audience.
Despite the lengthy time between gigs, Meow Meow has lost none of her powerful and flexible contralto, or her ability to hold an audience spellbound. Beginning with a disjointed and disgruntled ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’, she takes full command with the rousing Rinascero – whose sentiments of ‘my country will be reborn’ feels like a loving prayer to us all. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra under the conducting of Benjamin Northey plays exquisitely and brings stunning dimension to Meow Meow’s own composition Hotel Amour (and later the tear-jerking Tear Down the Stars), bathing Hamer Hall in a glorious glow of romanticism that one simply wishes to dissolve into.
The first act contains many of the characteristic Meow Meow shenanigans (many involving unwitting audience participants) and even as they draw uproarious laughter, the strength of the musical offerings and Meow Meow’s ability to embody each song completely almost renders these comic interludes unnecessary. After the shattering combination of the Weill classic Surabaya Johnny with the apocalyptic In this City (the orchestral accompaniment taking it to new, nearly Wagnerian, heights) to end the first act, Meow Meow wisely tones down the antics to focus more on the music. Making the Weimar satirical tune of profiteering and backstabbing, Alles schwindel, feel more relevant than ever followed by making an incompetent attempt at burlesque entertainment, the evening then turns to more emotional material. This allows Meow Meow to bring her full dramatic and emotional abilities center stage, before climaxing in a wonderful and joyous dance spectacle to end the evening.
A glorious return to the stage for one of our most talented and beloved cabaret stars, Meow Meow’s Pandemonium is a cavalcade of demented joys and powerful emotion that cannot fail to bring a smile (or tear) to your face.
Meow Meow played at Hamer Hall, Melbourne
Heartfelt and tear-inducing but ultimately healing
By Bradley Storer
As part of the collaboration between Arts Centre Melbourne and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne audiences are extremely lucky to experience this concert of the music of Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli films as conducted by their original composer, the legendary Joe Hisaishi.
After a preliminary speech by both MSO Managing Director Sophie Galaise and Consul-General of Japan in Melbourne, Kazuyoshi Matsunaga, maestro Hisaishi entered the stage to rapturous applause before launching into a suite of dramatic themes from the epic Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds. The first act of the concert was a journey of contrasts – this suitably dynamic start to the evening contrasted with a soothingly peaceful but bright suite from Kiki’s Delivery Service, before flowing into the chilling, explosive violence of Princess Mononoke.
Hisaishi was a commanding and masterful presence throughout the evening, switching seamlessly between conducting and accompanying the orchestra on grand piano. Australian guest artist Antoinette Halloran appeared to lend her powerful operatic soprano to several pieces, a charming fairytale vision in her pink gown. The Australian Air Force Band made a surprising entrance to provide a wonderful rendition of the Laputa: Castle in the Sky score under Hisashi’s direction, before a small section of the MSO returned to deliver a very intimate performance of the jazzier Pocco Rosso as the act one finale.
The second act began with the stunning Howl’s Moving Castle opening theme before morphing into the gentle beauty of The Wind Rises. Scenes from the original films projected overhead reflect how inextricably the scores are intertwined with the story and scenery of each world, a testament to the enduring power of Miyazaki and Hisaishi’s partnership. Japanese guest artist Mai Fujisawa was introduced to provide her blissful airy vocalizations to selections from Spirited Away – Hisashi uttered his only words for the evening after her initial performance to introduce Fujisawa as his daughter, drawing delighted gasps of shock from the audience.
The evening was brought to a close with the entire ensemble of musicians and vocalists performing the cheerful and rambunctious songs of My Neighbour Totoro, before Hisashi ended the evening offering a message of support for the Australian public after the Bush Fire crisis along with the final image of Princess Mononoke: a destroyed forest returning to life. An absolute pleasure of an evening, heartfelt and tear-inducing but ultimately healing in its vision of simplicity and harmony – a treasure for die hard fans and first timers alike!
Venue: Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Kings Domain Gardens
Dates: 29th February and 1st March
Bookings: artscentremelbourne.com.au or 1300 182 183
Photography courtesy of The Arts Centre Melbourne