Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Meow Meow. Her Majesty’s Theatre. 18 Jun 2017
I have seen Meow Meow many times now and I'll go again for sure. While she's hurrying some man to fetch her reading glasses, or having another carry her prop sack, don't you just want to run up on stage and scratch her back, just to have her throw her head back and purr? Some of the schtick is still stuck on, like legging it over the audience with banter, making do with a personal fog machine or EXIT sign for lighting, and the tear-away copiously layered show biz gowns, but what's new - what is extraordinarily fabulous - is that she created this show just for little old Adelaide and the ghosts of Her Majesty's. True, she has tributed other theatres in other cities, so I am overwhelmed with gratitude that Adelaide also gets the Meow Meow treatment, and to have been in the presence of this rarity.
Meow Meow is a pretty attractive persona, but so is Melissa Madden Gray, a consummate entertainer and the creator of this fascinating feline. Gray did her research, citing a couple of city theatre war horses and the Performing Arts Collections as sources. She rounded out an historical narrative, starting with a painted backdrop (original design - Andrea Lauer) of the Tivoli Theatre of 1913, a prior name for Her Maj. A few recorded choruses of the traditional shanty, Bound For South Australia eventually saw the Tivoli disappear into the flyspace to reveal an orchestra lead by musical director Jherek Bischoff. A prow of a working boat of the colonial days decorated centre stage. All these colonial props were heartening, whereas the songs, also created by Meow Gray in collaboration with composers Bischoff and August von Trapp (could he really be the great grandson of the Captain and Agatha?), were fresh and lively and showed off Meow Meow's lush and variable voice. More of Lauer's design comprised slung parachute silk lit up with fairy lights to give the impression of ice for a tale and a song about the Terra and Erebus Antarctic expeditions, with hints to South Australian Antarctic explorers Wilkins and Mawson. Meow Gray, like myself, identified Adelaide as one of those end-of-the-earth places, and conjured a sense of adventure in constructing a theatre - making normal in an extraordinary remoteness.
A line-up of mainly pre-pubescent kids dressed firstly like Harlequins and later like the von Trapps formed up a show-stealing chorus. Each had their own style of star-waving and one young'un especially had other things on his mind. While he garnered peals of laughter in the final songs of the show, Meow Meow generously went along with the flow. Not enough time to learn all her lines - and where else could she do this show? Well, that was no problem either.
A superbly and richly researched script by Gray given over to Meow Meow for a full blown cabaret performance. Thanks for this gift. Bravo!
When: 17 to 18 Jun
Where: Her Majesty's Theatre