Stars of the mu­si­cal stage join a hot sea­son of cabaret

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Best Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Twit­ter @EpicChook

They’re three very familiar faces in a very un­fa­mil­iar mi­lieu. But then, cabaret is far more than most of us as­sume it to be — as the Hayes Theatre Co’s up­com­ing June cabaret sea­son demon­strates so beau­ti­fully.

The month-long pro­gram fea­tures wildly var­ied shows — from cel­e­bra­tions of rock leg­ends Kurt Cobain and Jim Mor­ri­son, to Wharf Re­vue star Phil Scott’s ex­plo­ration of the life of Oliver! com­poser Lionel Bart. Mel­bourne co­me­dian Geral­dine Quinn looks at her role of aunt to 23 nieces and neph­ews, while Dar­ren Yap has writ­ten and di­rected a piece about a fic­tional young woman’s rise through the US mu­sic in­dus­try.

There are mas­ter­classes, in­clud­ing one run by Les Mis­er­ables star Hay­den Tee (June 27), and even a cel­e­bra­tion of the 1998 col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello Painted From Mem­ory, star­ring Michael Fal­zon and Bobby Fox.

“We’reWe re try­ing to give peo­ple as many op­tions as pos­si­ble,” ex­plains Hayes Theatre Co’s Vic­to­ria Wildie. “And also look at how the bound­aries for cabaret are ex­pand­ing a bit; it’s not just an artist get­ting up there and singing a com­bi­na­tion of songs from mu­si­cal theatre shows.

“It’s about say­ing that cabaret is about peo­ple us­ing mu­sic to ex­press some­thing, and it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter what that mu­sic is.”

Which brings us back to our cover stars — mu­si­cal theatre’s Ma­rina Prior and Rob Mills, and singer-song­writer Damien Leith, stretch­ing his per­for­mance mus­cles in a very dif­fer­ent dis­ci­pline.

Leith’s cabaret jour­ney be­gan a few years back with an in­vi­ta­tion from Hayes Theatre Co. founders David Camp­bell and Lisa He­witt when they were run­ning the Ade­laide Cabaret Fes­ti­val.

Leith, a friend of Camp­bell, em­braced the idea.

“When he asked me, I thought, ‘Well I al­ways loved act­ing as a kid,’ ” Leith says. “I didn’t ac­tu­ally get in­ter­ested in mu­sic un­til I was about 16; I used to write plays and put them on with my friends, so I jumped at the op­por­tu­nity.” The re­sult­ing piece has been re­fined over the past four years and is now a com­plete work. The Part­ing Glass — An Ir­ish Jour­ney tells the story of an adult son, back in Ire­land for a visit af­ter mi­grat­ing to Australia, and catch­ing up with his dad over a few drinks in a pub. It’sIt s not au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal but is in­formed by things Leith has seen and peo­ple he’s met, and in­cludes a heap of clas­sic Ir­ish tunes.

“It’s fam­ily, it’s im­mi­gra­tion, it’s love, it’s loss. It’s like one of those tragic Ir­ish songs — bright and breezy, then tragedy strikes and they come through it all,” Leith ex­plains.

Much more per­sonal is A Prior En­gage­ment — An In­ti­mate Evening With Ma­rina Prior, which sees the star of such mu­si­cals as Phantom Of The Opera, West Side Story and Cats re­veal­ing a very dif­fer­ent side of her­self.

While we might be more ac­cus­tomed to an el­e­gantly cos­tumed or ball­gown ball­gown-clad clad Prior, she did begin her mu­sic ca­reer as a gui­tar-play­ing busker in Mel­bourne and will be bash­ing out a few Ir­ish and Scot­tish folk songs.

“I love the free­dom of choice, be­ing able to chat and laugh and tell sto­ries as me. A lot of the time, the au­di­ence doesn’t know me as me, just as what­ever char­ac­ters I’ve played,” she says.

But Prior has been a huge stage star for a long time — about 30 years — so there will be mu­si­cal-theatre pieces and a few sto­ries along the way.

While Rob Mills hasn’t been around for quite as long, he’ll also be do­ing some look­ing back in a show called Rob Mills Is Sur­pris­ingly Good. Yes, it’s a phrase that has been de­ployed his way. It seems that, de­spite a solid, decade-long mu­si­caltheatre ca­reer — in­clud­ing two years as Fiyero in the orig­i­nal Aus­tralian pro­duc­tion of Wicked — the weight of Aus­tralian Idol still hangs around Mills’ neck.

“It doesn’t mat­ter what you do in theatre, you’ll just get re­mem­bered for what you did on TV all those years ago,” he says. “I am grate­ful for that legup but with all the ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve had, I’ve now put it all into a one-man show.

“It’s a lit­tle bit of a look at where I’ve come from, and d where I’m go­ing, a bit of footage from my first per­for­mance on stage as a 15year-old, and a look back at my first go at be­ing judged,” Mills ex­plains.

Of course he will also can­vass the washout from Aus­tralian Idol, the brief ca­reer areer as a pop-star and his even­tual tual jour­ney to mu­si­cal theatree where he found his home.

“I think I’ve re­ally been n wel­comed with open arms s by the com­mu­nity and I re­ally y feel part of it now,” he says. s.

Rob Mills, Ma­rina Prior and Damien Leith all have shows in Hayes Theatre Co’s cabaret sea­son. Pic­ture: Bob Barker Cabaret Sea­son, Hayes Theatre eatre Co, Green­knowe Ave, Potts Point; June 1-28, var­i­ous times and prices, hayesthe­

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