I will preface my post with an admission that might shock my readership. I, Laila shalimar, one time burlesque performer, lover of all things glittery, purveyor of sparkly and kitsch, do not enjoy Musicals.
Not. At. All
How bizarre, you must be wondering, for a girl from the land of Bollywood where every movie is peppered with 5 minute song and dance routines. Look, it is not for a lack of trying, that I can assure you. Some people are gluten intolerant. Some dont do dairy. Maybe the whole genre doesn’t agree with me. I fell asleep during Le Mis once. I watched the first 20 minutes of Grease before i turned it off. I pretended to be out of town for the dates my friend wanted to take me to see Carmen.
I just. Dont. Do. Musicals.
Or so I thought…
*cue dramatic music*
When my good friend asked me last minute to be her date to a show featuring the gorgeous Le Gateau Chocolat and the leggy, Jonny Woo I didnt even think twice to check what kind of show it was. Having missed out on the opportunity to bask in LGC’s glory Last Fringe, I was not about to ask any questions. It was only when I saw the poster while in queue that I realised what the show was all about. I felt like a puppy promised a drive that ended up at the Vet. Nooo. Not musical theatre! Anything but musical theatre.
As we took our seats in the gorgeous spiegeltent, I prayed a little prayer to the Fringe Gods that my lipsynching skills and poker face would pass enough to fool my date that evening. The lights dimmed, silence fell over the crowd and a besequinned figure took the stage. My heart was in my throat.
As the first notes of the evening made their way to my uneducated eardrums a strange feeling of calm descended upon me. “This isnt terrible” I thought to myself ” This is beautiful and strangely moving”. I was hooked.
I speak 3 languages folks and I fail to find words in all three to describe the voice of Le Gateau Chocolat. From the deep, warm baritone that filled my senses like a cup of cocoa on a freezing Perth morning, to the lighter moments and higher pitches that made me want to kick off my shoes and dance along, I was moved…i was mesmerised….i was in love. It wasnt just the voice. Le Gateau Chocolat’s stage presence reminded me so much of Etta James in her finest moments. Those eye gestures laden with meaning, the hand gestures, the sway of the hips – Le Gateau Chocolat’s performance was testament not only to their Operatic Background but to their theatrical talent.
And lets not forget JonnyWoo, a rubber faced, self depricating, comedienne extraordinaire on two, envy inducing, shapely legs. Jonnywoo who through facial expressions alone transformed a simple overcoat into a wardrobe for the entire cast of Le Miserables. He made a musical number from Le Miserables look like it was out of a Jerry Lewis movie. He managed to perform a chair routine in mickey mouse gloves and still make it look sexy. And it is all these things that make Jonnywoo Le Incredible.
What made A night at the Musicals so entertaining, so enjoyable and appealing to the senses was how well Le Gateau Chocolat and Jonny Woo worked together. While their solo work highlighted their remarkable individual talents, it was the duets that truly stole the show! LGC is the Fry to Jonny woos Laurie, the Marilyn to his Jane Russel. The Velma Kelly to his Roxy Hart.
By the end of the night I was standing in my booth attempting to sing along to Grease, a musical I had vowed would never make its way into my karaoke repertoire. I felt like I had been part of something a little bit magical. I had had a bit of a spiritual awakening.
Hallelujah. Praise the Queens. I had seen the light.
In short, A Night at the Musicals was many things: an ode to musical theatre, a crash course in cabaret, a singalong spectacular, and a true testament to the power of drag. And for this one time Musical hating reviewer, it was the start of a new romance with one of theatre’s most colourful genres.
A Night at Musicals wraps up on Monday 6th February with several sold out shows already. Get your tix here.