|Meow Meow presents Souvenir. Photo by Claudio Raschella|
Meow Meow. Souvenir.
Created by Meow Meow in collaboration with composers Jherek Bischoff and August von Trapp. Musical Direction Jherek Bischoff. Original Design. Andrea Lauer. Adelaide design by Kath Spraul Her Majesty’s Theatre. Adelaide Cabaret Festival. June 18 and 19. 2017
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Her Majesty’s Theatre in Grote Street in Adelaide holds a very special place in the hearts of arts lovers,who, since 1913 have flocked to delight in the astounding array of entertainments in the city’s Grand Old Lady of the Arts. Originally called the Tivoli, this Palace of Dreams, has played proud host for over a century to amazing artists from near and far who graced the Tivoli, Fuller and J.C. Williamson circuits. Over the years she fell into decline, crumbled and sagged with neglect before renovations restored her former glory. Now, on the eve of forthcoming major renovations, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival has invited international diva, the incomparable Meow Meow to host a tribute to the glorious years of Her Maj. Billed as a fantastical song cycle to the half remembered, misreported history of Her Majesty’s Theatre, Souvenir recalls the magical moments that graced the very stage on which the incandescent Meow Meow, supported by the Orchester der kleinen Regiment under the baton of musical director, Jherek Bischoff now celebrates the Grand Dame’s past. Sweet reminiscence floats upon the air, down through the years to the Tivoli girls and the stars who toured Down Under for J.C. Williamson and lit up the lives of the citizens who flocked to see the faded ghosts of yesteryear’s glory.
In her billowing silver Edwardian dress with a black embroidered jacket and banana in her hand, the irrepressible, original and sensational songstress of surprises, Meow Meow, clambers through the narrow aisles to the stage to the sound of Bound for South Australia. She clambers onto the stage before the painted fire curtain of the Temple to Trials and Tribulations. The curtain rises to reveal a rowing boat with protruding mannequin legs and a large anchor at its bow. Behind, the Orchester der kleinen Regiment strikes up the music to Meow Meow’s Vergesse Mich Nicht (Do not forget me). She recounts the stories of legendary Adelaide showgirl, Phyl Skinner and the King of Jugglers, Paul Cinquevalli, who played the stage and died forgotten of a broken heart in London. In a nostalgic evening of reminiscence, Meow Meow ‘s glorious voice, operatic, pop and vaudevillian soars through Time, recalling showbiz romances, visiting luminaries, brave endeavours by Antarctic explorers, Wilkins and Mawson. As she sings with a Lilliputian chorus of little angels behind her, a backdrop of white cloth rises slowly as a mournful salute to the lost sailors of ill- fated Erebus during its search for the North West Passage, immortalized in a musical that performed upon Her Majesty’s stage all those years ago.
Almost instantly, Meow Meow shifts the mood to an hilarious burlesque number, hidden from view by the children’s chorus. She emerges to honour vaudeville with her playful rendition of You are my Honeysuckle with Bischoff .
At the edge of the world the white sails fly high behind the Orchester der kleinen Regiment in honour of the grand old dame on the cusp of her transformation. The Lilliputian Opera Chorus join Meow Meow in a final sung tribute to Adelaide’s theatrical jewel. It is a song of celebration calling back through the years to the glorious ghosts of the past. The children sing their chorus and one young child stands awestruck in the presence of a diva and before a full house. He stands bewildered, out of time and distracted, but here, like the awestruck Snowdrop so many years before, when Phyl Skinner needed to be dragged from the stage, this small child already has the seeds of addiction within him, and perhaps he too will find his place upon the refurbished Her Majesty’s stage.
And so the curtain falls and an audience files out down the crowded aisle, bewitched, charmed and mesmerized by the magical splendor of Meow Meow, lulled into a world of nostalgia by the Orchester der kleinen Regiment under Jherek Bischoff and touched by the sweet sound of the children, the future of the Grand Old Lady of Grote Street.