Croon Tunes at the Ensemble Theatre
Later this month one of Sydney's best-known (and most loved) performers, Mitchell Butel, takes to the Ensemble stage with a special cabaret, 'Croon Tunes.' Carly was lucky to speak with Butel ahead of his performance to see where the inspiration for this show came from and what audiences can look forward to (spoiler: there is a lot to look forward to!).
Straight off another Helpmann's win, I was absolutely honoured to speak with Mitchell this week - have a read below:
Mitchell Butel - Croon Tunes
In creating a cabaret like Croon Tunes, where do you start? What inspired you to put this production together now and what research was required to get the process started?
I wanted to create a show around the songs I used to sing as a teenager growing up in Maroubra, especially the croony jazz standards for yesteryear that had very little to do with my actual life but which activated my imagination with their late night, Vegas flavours. There was something slightly ridiculous about me performing these into a hairbrush in my family’s garage while all my mates were out surfing or playing football. I thought that could make an entertaining show. We performed a version of the show for Morning Melodies at the Victorian Arts Centre last year but this version will have a little more spice and (hopefully) some juicier stories. Maybe a few new tunes as well.
Croon Tunes features songs from many of your childhood music heroes - can you talk a bit about your earliest memory of some of your favourite songs from the show and how they found their way into this cabaret?
I was a big fan of Bill Colin's Golden Years of Hollywood on Channel 10 on Friday nights and through that, and the various Saturday afternoon movies on TV, I was introduced to all the old Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley movies and I fell under the spell. Lots of favourite songs sprang from these movie sessions which have found their way into the show – That Old Black Magic, Sway, A Little Less Conversation, Blue Moon, One for the Road.
Of all the featured icons, do you have one that has inspired you the most – either personally or professionally – and why?
I love them all. It would be hard to choose a favourtite. I like Dean Martin’s charm and mischief, Sinatra’s ease and warmth, Sammy Davis Junior’s showbiz flair, Mel Torme’s tone, Tony Bennett’s eccentric phrasing! I was/am a big fan of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin growing up too.
Croon Tunes at the Ensemble Theatre - Opens August 26th
What can audiences expect when booking tickets to the show…who is this cabaret perfect for?
Audiences can expect some great old tunes performed with new and original arrangements and my individual take on them and performed by three red hot Sydney musicians – Daryl Wallis on keys, Joe Accaria on drums and Micheal Galeazzi on bass. They can also expect a lot of fun stories about my grandiose teenage dreams and first steps towards showbiz. All my theatre nerdom will be on show for everyone. Fun for all the family!
Recently we have been lucky to see you directing and performing in a range of shows around Sydney - including Mr Burns, A Post-Electric Play, for which you were awarded the Helpmann Award for Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role – Congratulations!! I was hoping you may be able to speak a bit about your experiences working in multiple roles within the theatre industry and how you came to find your passion for each.
A career in the Australian performing arts demands that you have a lot of strings to your bow if you’re going to survive. That’s also part of the fun and the challenge – to try as many different things and avenues as possible. I’ve been so lucky to perform in musicals, plays, cabarets, operas, films, TV shows for several decades and I’ve really enjoyed giving back some of the things I’ve learned on those shows to other, often younger folk when I’m directing. If the writing is good, it’s easy to drum up passion whether as a performer or a director and I’ve been very lucky in that respect too to work on pieces with exceptional writing.
Helpmann Award Winner, Mitchell Butel
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS.
Favourite production you have ever seen?
So many! Where to start! Today I’m going to say three – Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George (the original production), Kander and Ebb’s The Scottsboro Boys and Barrie Kosky’s recent production of the opera Eugene Onegin in Berlin.
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
New York or Venice.
Dream role in any show to perform?
I’d love to play Fagin in Oliver one day!
Plays or musicals?
Love them both equally.
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
I like playing my classical guitar when I have time.
What’s next for you after this show?
I’m directing a concert version CANDIDE for the Sydney Philharmonia and Sydney Youth Orchestra in September and then I’m playing 8 member of the D’ysquith family in A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER for The Production Company in Melbourne.
Croon Tunes opens on August 26th and runs for a strictly limited 3 performances - for information and tickets, click here