11 July 2007
Beckett Theatre, CUB Malthouse
I first saw Ali McGregor in The Opera Burlesque. She was sensual, seductive, tantalising, funny and downright divine. I saw glimpses of that Ali in Midnight Lullabies, but otherwise I’m having trouble believing it was the same performer.
Ali has the kind of voice that is like having your lover lick your ear (if indeed you like that). A well trained voice can do amazing things to songs we think we know. German Lieder, Cohen, Waits, Gershwin and Newman all get Ali’s divine touch.
The concept behind Midnight Lullabies is the perfect for Ali. She sings us the songs that go through her head at four am. She is accompanied by Ben Hendry on an assortment of percussion and “funny” instruments and tells us about what these songs mean to her.
But it’s not working. This show is screaming out for a director and a writer. Ali needs to either be herself on the stage or develop the horny, nutty, obsessive soprano character that sometimes made an appearance. She slipped into a stage character during the some songs, but there was nothing consistent driving the show forward. The best cabaret acts (including the wonderful Opera Burlesque) are based on narrative and character.
There were many moments in Midnight Lullabies that were heading in the right direction, but never got going. Being awake at four am trawling eBay for a $3.97, seven-note concertina. This alone could form the base of a highly original and delightfully kooky character and story. Let this woman lose.
Or she needs to be herself. I would have loved to hear her real stories. If you did sing "Creep" at a weird party for Elton John, for goodness sake tell us the story – otherwise it’s just pretentious name dropping. You can tell the most glorious stories in song, so please also tell us stories though you.
This show should seduce every single member of the audience. Ali can do this. I was so surprised that she didn’t. Sing into out faces and our hearts. The eyes shut, looking at the ceiling stuff just doesn’t work if you’re not connecting with the audience. And the zither, unless it can be made sexy, it only works as a joke.
Now, this may be my harshest piece of criticism to date, but it has to be said. This is something that disturbed me from the moment it appeared and distracted from every other element of the show. Ali – that dress. It looks like something a virgin aunt would make for a 13-year-old frumpy geek to wear to the school dance, which she’s going to with her cousin. A good looking woman can always pull off a bad frock. You are a spectacularly good looking woman – but no one could look good in that frock. I honestly thought that you were parodying one of those sopranos who can never select a decent stage dress. Then I realised… Please get a costume that reflects the character you want us to see on that stage.
This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.