The Famous Spiegeltent. Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2019. Adelaide Festival Centre. June 13-14
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
|Gunhild Carling. Photo by Sara Silverbrg|
Billed as Sweden’s Queen of Swing, Gunhild Carling celebrates the Thirties era of jazz in a show that thrills to the sounds of New Orleans, dazzles with the songs of the Big Band shows and astonishes with her musical command of an array of instruments from trumpet to trombone, harmonica to bagpipe and recorder to song. With peroxide hair, pink flower behind the ear, white fur stole about the shoulders and a pearl necklace-draped white sequined flapper dress with tassles along the hem, Carling swings into action. The audience is caught up in the fervour of the singer and her band and the show rolls on.
From Billie Holiday’sUntil The Real Thing Comes Along to Ella Fitzgerald’s Dream A Little Dream Carling casts a spell too strong to resist. Between songs, she mesmerizes with trumpet and trombone, drawing us back to the swinging age of jazz and the sounds of Trombone pioneer J.C. Higginbotham, Tommy Dorsey and Trummy Young. Carling plays a tribute to the musicians of yesteryear.
With a whisper in the ear of saxophonist Paul VanderKoogh, both would leave the stage while Colin Elmer on guitar, Mark Ferguson on piano, Alana Dawes on Bass an John McDermott on drums played on. Carling soon reappeared in a slinky blue number, ideal for her romantic rendition of La Vie En Rose.
Carling is having the time of her life and the brilliant local band swings along as Carling amazes with the splits, seduces her audience with her instrumental versatility, plays Amazing Grace on the bagpipes, and the Star Spangled Banner simultaneously on three trumpets. Nothing is too difficult for this sorceress of musicality as she plays the double bass on its side while balancing and playing a trumpet on her mouth. The showgirl is all class and the audience breaks into spontaneous applause as Carling followed by members of the band move through the Spiegeltent to an unusual version of When The Saints Go Marching In. Bewitched and besotted, the audience stare in amazement as nothing becomes too difficult for Carling to play, while throwing herself into a frenzied tap routine in yet another dress with a flowing train.. This fireball of energy blazes with talent and Carling and her band are having the time of their lives.
All too soon it’s time for the encore and after their rousing rendition of Bourbon Street Parade, Carling and the band leave through the audience like a New Orleans funeral procession to the more sombre sound of St. James Infirmary.
To a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd the Queen of Swing who has performed before the King of Sweden celebrates her first triumphant debut visit to Australia. Here’s hoping it won’t be her last!