Ethan Switch - Tuesday, 5 July 2005
There is a funeral or a party for Goths out the back. Everyone's in black. Apart from one pair of legs, it's an all dour sensation as the ensemble step out one after the other. First one, then two and then a flock of seagulls.
Opening with the number, "I Am Changing" from Dream Girls, one member of the ensemble assaults the eyes. Light catching no favour, hurtling bright rays right into the retina. Temporary blindness is done with as they move their dress away from the spotlight and into the fray.
In the second opening ensemble piece, a lone dancer in broad lapels boggles the mind. Rendering an infinite of voids and questions there seems to be no actual reason why he is sliding across as they sing "Seasons of Love" from Rent. Usher? Michael Jackson? What? Cry, cry again? It makes no sense in the scheme of things.
For a second, it's as though the final number is already here as they "Bring Him Home" from Les Misérables. Sterling and pretty much like a close out.
Sufferance is the welcoming banter between a few of the singers. Forcing the hand of comedy, laughs are heard, but there isn't an entirely natural essence to it. Casting cards are being handed out with their voices.
Bringing in theatrics to the showcase, Brett Fahey and Victoria Maxwell put the natural lean of the audition process on the boards. Hammering out "The Kid Inside" (Is There Life After High School) and "Schadenfreude" (Avenue Q), respectively, they are tragically cut short, all part of the process in testing the mettle.
Peter Silver sidesteps the flow to deliver an original work entitled, The great actor retires. An hilariously ludicrous and equally pompous life plan taking in the defeat of over 640 audition knock backs. One day, the great actor will return and bask in the love so duly deserved. And this is the launch to a send off, flipping a nose of contempt. A captain of accolades waiting to be.
Ben Hudson and Rapeeporn Pratum-anon, first of a few duos, bring in Miss Saigon with "Sun and Moon" before Julian Batchelor and Justine Anderson break off a bit of the dust in "Paula" from Goodbye Girl. Knees are on the floorboards, and that's about as low as it can get.
Chilling in its intensity, guest artist Andy Walton's "Sentimental Soldier" delivers a spooky, heartfelt lullaby. Shimmering with presence on stage, alone and crying through the lyrics, it's a lament for the soul.
Out of that conceit, the night breaks back into a series of single shots at the audience. Ties that bind and all that through connections of song.
Slinking on with these fantastic heels, strapping and criss-crossing all over the foot in a rather set form, Kay Tuckerman seduces the microphone. Set just beyond the reach, it's an alluring call to someone out there. Probably not the two in the back on their mobile phones, even though they feature in the dedication.
Out from the fields of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Ben Hudson affects a gloomy horror using "Jack's Lament" as a turn for what at times almost veers into a rocky horror picture show.
Distraction is watching the otherwise entirely gothic outfit of Makare Farina wander as the left index strikes open, showing the bare white skin of the finger underneath. Mesmerising though the "Kiss of the Spider Woman" is, the eyes cannot stop focusing on the white spot screaming from a blanket of black.
Daniel Belle, Australian Idol finalist and with a framed photo out in the hallway along with the twenty-seven featuring the defunct Scandal'Us, holds the stage well. Masterfully commandeering a vaudevillian style, his number does pains of justice to his vocal abilities. Far better than listening to him sing pop/rock songs.
Guest pianist Krzysztof Malek smashes the ivory keys with a frenetic flurry of a maddening fury. Delicate notes dance unbelievably effortlessly with powerful chords, hit with absolutely no inhibitions or pretence. Nothing but blurs affect the air during his rendition of "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6" from Liszt. Amazing to watch.
Lighting does an extremely capable job of working with only one spotlight the entire night. Side shots and lamps from the ether adding a sense of warmth to tender moments and sheer bangs in the more boisterous. Beverly Kennedy throughout the night on piano, when not taken by Andrew Davidson or Sarah-Grace Williams, absolutely attacks the turning of the notes with a fearsome flick.
Down with the non-existent curtains on sadder notes, Julia Philipson and Phillip Buckley arrest the rest of proceedings. Their movement on "Your Daddy's Son" of Ragtime is particularly cavernous and the night only feels like warming up for an even greater joy in explosion.
An amazing array of voices, wonderful performances. A stunning showcase from the Australian Institute of Music. So many names, so many songs. So easy to forget without a programme at hand. And even then...