By Lucinda Naughton
A trip down memory lane. The Australian icon is back. She started in 1963, when she, along with most of the people in the audience, used to be twenty years old. She’s bold. She’s brutal. She’s grumpy. And she’s still got it.
Carlotta’s Christmas Special at HOTA is a one off show filled with beautiful songs, Carlotta’s three talented accompanying musicians, interspersed with complaints, glitter, and plenty of aversion to political correctness.
HOTA’s Lakeside Room is set up for that time of year; dozens and dozens of round tables with white tablecloths are covered in Christmas crackers and baubles. Romantic lighting fills the stage and atmosphere. The room sparkles. Or maybe that’s Carlotta.
Once everyone is cosy at their tables, champagnes in hand, the show kicks off with the gifted Michael Griffiths on the keys and vocals. Two screens flick through images of Carlotta’s splendid career, which started all those years ago in the long running revue, Les Girls, at King’s Cross. She rose up the ranks and became the show’s compere, ‘The Queen of the Cross’, performing in Les Girls for about twenty-six years. Griffiths’ moving voice fills the air, building the suspense before Carlotta struts onto the stage. Her vocals and presence still shine. She and Griffiths sing beautifully together and apart.
Carlotta quickly charms her excitable audience by cracking gags about her changes in appearance, cackling, “I’m seventy-six, I’ll do as I want!”. She’s clearly at home on stage in her white, dazzling gown, commenting she should be stuck on a Christmas tree. She cuts to the chase from the get go: “If you’re politically correct you can f*** off.”
She does not, of course, hold back on the glam, having three costume changes, from gowns to feathers as she can’t be onstage “without a bit of chook!” At one point she adorns a crown-like head piece that works as her own personal disco ball, flicking lights everywhere she gracefully turns her head.
Carlotta’s certainly unafraid to step off her stage, the audience lights brightening, and waltz into the audience to chat with, or rather, abuse its members. The lucky ones not sitting in the front tables (myself included) do not get heckled thanks to her lack of bother to walk so far, blaming it on the grievances of old age, much to the audience’s delight. Everyone enjoys her antics; many being life-long fans, some aren’t afraid to heckle with Carlotta right back. There is a sense of her fans gleefully popping in to check on her and see what she’s up to. Still going strong at seventy-six is the impressive answer.
The feelings of nostalgia would have been more potent if only she wasn’t so merciless, giving us no time to bog down in sentimentalities and all the time to laugh at her crudeness. Although, in saying that, she certainly exhibits moving moments as she pays tributes to her talented friends and lost loved ones, such as Simone Troy. Briskly hinting at life’s challenges before returning to the fun, glamour, and Christmas excitement. And it wouldn’t be a Christmas special without a beautiful rendition of Jingle Bells and glittering Santa hats “for the boys”.
It’s just the show to get you into the spirit of Christmas if that’s what you celebrate at this time of year!
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.