Review by Matthew Hocter
My heart goes out to Sydney and pretty much half of Australia at this moment in time. Lockdown, that word that seemed to only ever be used in shows like Prisoner or Wentworth, has now become most people’s worst nightmare. Luckily for us, we have Australia’s very own answer to Bette Midler meets Bert Newton meets Kerri Anne Kennerley: Ms. Catherine Alcorn.
The cabaret star who’s sold out show with Paul McDermott at this year’s Adelaide Fringe, Paul + Catherine SING TOGETHER, has adapted to all things Covid and brought her latest offering, Catherine & Friends online, ensuring that the show well and truly must go on. As part of the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall (MDCH) series, 100% of ticket sales are going back into the much needed pockets of the artists, something that Victorian artists know only too well and now sadly, so too do our artistic counterparts in New South Wales.
Streaming live from the divine Concourse Theatre in Chatswood, Alcorn opened the show in a hot pink tinselled jacket with a take on Dolly Parton’s “9-5.” With more sparkles on display than a Drag Queens closet, Alcorn, in the most affectionate of ways, is everybody’s favourite Diva. Joined on stage with her three piece band, the multi award winning artist launched into a jazzy version of “Tainted Love,” before giving us a stunning version of Tanya Tuckers “Delta Dawn.” Alcorn’s safe space is clearly the stage and putting those vocals to incredible use comes off as effortless, something that any music or theatre lover knows requires an incredible amount of blood, sweat and tears.
With a slew of guests lined up, Alcorn was joined on stage intermittently throughout the 80 minute show by Sydney Drag legend, Verushka Darling who not only acted as co-compere, but read fan’s texts and provided a never ending slew of innuendos. She even provided an art class – of sorts. Helpmann Award winner, Ursula Yovich brought things full circle with a stunning rendition of “Home,” the closing song of The Wiz, sung by Diana Ross. Later in the show, Yovich returned to again show what a power house vocalist she is with an equally powerful performance, this time with Shirley Bassey’s “You Can Have Him.” There aren’t enough words to describe Yovich’s talent.
Phil Scott, the Multi-disciplinary and multi-talented artist (The Big Gig) demonstrated his piano skills with some variations from West Side Story (“Somewhere”), but it was when he was joined onstage by his brother Craig Scott on the base, that the magic happened as they played Bach’s “Prelude in C Major.” An incredibly unexpected and very welcomed addition. Fellow Big Gig alumni, Jean Kitson got in on the mix with some Covid specific humour, reminding everyone why they were in the lockdown.
As the show wound up, it was clear that whilst Alcorn and friends sometimes missed the mark, their intent to entertain and deliver 80 minutes of fun was what they clearly set out to do and it was achieved. Working without an audience is never an easy feat for any artist and this was no exception. Alcorn closed the show with her “love letter to Sydney and the world,” The Pretenders “I’ll Stand by You,” followed closely by “Friends” as she was joined on stage with her “friends”. A familiar and warm night in with Catherine & Friends won’t disappoint, especially when escaping from the doldrums of lockdown seems to be the most precious gift of all.