19 November 2006

The Opera Burlesque

The Opera Burlesque
19 November 2006
The Famous Spiegeltent

Review by Christina Cass

“Opera singers can sing but they sure as hell can’t act”, are mutters often heard while the audience files out of Carmen or La Traviata. That’s what keeps many people away from embracing the opera format – the stiffness of the performers we often see (which, by the way, has loosened up quite a bit lately). Ah! But the music is so dreamy that watching Pavarotti poke around the stage barely physically connected to the text of the story – much less barely resembling the character – doesn’t matter.

Not so with Ali McGregor’s The Opera Burlesque triumphantly back from the Edinburgh Festival for another Melbourne engagement at the Famous Spiegeltent. Ali McGregor, Antoinette Halloran and Dimity Shepherd make up the trio of lovely laced-up vocalists who can also act! That’s what struck me about halfway through their show – how wonderful it was to enjoy beautiful, classically trained voices wrapping their delicious vocal chords (not to mention corset chords) around uniquely mixed interpretations of Puccini, Madonna, and AC/DC all while being fully invested in their characters.

Okay, okay, bad boys and horny babes -- love gone murderously wrong and songs about tongue-tied ‘cunning linguists’ may not bring these ever-so-slightly-tarnished lilies a Tony Award, but to see a well-structured kabaret performed with polish is a great treat. This cheeky burlesque business can sometimes be just haphazard, titillating vaudevillian fare – which in itself can be very fun, don’t get me wrong, The Opera Burlesque has plenty of that but it also has a bit more structure than just getting down and dirty.

McGregor, who also directed the show, was apparently inspired by a late 19th Century group of opera singers who used to creep out of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, dash across to the East End and perform their arias in corsets and drawers for the vaudeville loving public. Parodying popular theatre of the day, these ladies gave the audience a taste of opera that they may not otherwise either experience or care for and that’s exactly what The Opera Burlesque ladies are leaving its audience today.

The Opera Burlesque has one final show, November 20, 2006 @ the Spiegeltent 9:15pm – try not to miss it!

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com

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