Performers: Karen Strahan, Gaye Reid, Jill Walsh and Lisa McClelland
Music Accompaniment: John Hill, Ben Schumann
Smith's Alternative Bookshop 31 January 2014
Review by Len Power
It was a hot evening on Friday inside Smith’s Alternative Bookshop but it had nothing to do with the heatwave outside; it was comfortably cool inside the venue. The heat I’m talking about was generated by the four great performers who make up the all girl singing group, the Marvellous Miz Demeanours.
Karen Strahan, Gaye Reid, Jill Walsh and Lisa McClelland are Canberra girls who met originally at the jazz campus at the Australian National University. They subsequently became fixtures on the music scene in Canberra together and individually in other musical ventures. As the Miz Demeanours, they perform their own arrangements from jazz, blues and quirky pop as well as their own original material.
Friday’s performance cleverly showcased the girls’ talents, winning the audience over with their first number, ‘I Want Some Stuff Like That’. They followed this with a constant stream of great songs from different eras of music and in various styles. Amongst the highlights were Duke Ellington’s, ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’, with fabulous solo playing by accompanying pianist, John Hill, ‘Louis Jordan’s, ‘Choo Choo Chaboogie’ and ‘Mambo Italiano’ in an arrangement that’s right up there with Rosemary Clooney’s original. Then there was ‘That Cat’s Higher Than A Kite’, which displayed the girls’ considerable harmony skills and ‘Take A Walk On The Wild Side’ with a haunting vocal by John Hill accompanied by the girls (and the audience). A special mention must be made of the accompanying drummer, Ben Schumann, who also gave us solos that were musically superb and witty and fun, too.
As well as being excellent musicians, the girls are individually distinctive performers. Every word they sing is clearly audible and they are skilled at playing to and interacting with an audience. Their own compositions are clever musically, their arrangements are intelligent and their harmony work together is very strong. Their greatest skill is the way they form a bond with their audience right from the outset. There’s no barrier between performer and audience here.
Costumes worn by the girls are elegant and attractive and the good balanced sound was provided by Bevan Noble of B Natural Productions. The intimate setting of Smith’s Alternative Bookshop was perfect for this type of cabaret show. No-one is seated far from the stage and everyone is well looked after by Domenic Mico and his staff.
At one point in the evening, the girls sang, ‘Winning My Way To The Top’, one of the songs which will be heard in a new musical written by Karen Strahan and Jill Walsh and which will be presented at the Q in Queanbeyan in May. On the strength of that one song, I suggest you mark that one in your diary now.
Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 2 February 2014.