By Laura Heuston
Murder, She Sang is a tight 40 minute cabaret that takes us through a classic film noir tale- a dead husband, a private eye, a mysterious lover… but this time, it’s told through the eyes of the femme fatale, played by Caitlin Rose. Her classic features and mannerisms wonderfully combine with her gorgeous voice to narrate through song and story a tale of manipulation, infidelity, arson, seduction, and of course, murder!
Caitlin Rose seems to be the perfect star of this sordid tale, as she shifts seamlessly between her character of a doe-eyed, sweet cheeked wife to the wicked, seductive mastermind that we all came to see. I have to admit my bias, femme fatales are by far my favourite part of the noir genre, and Caitlin Rose plays this one to perfection. Although there were some unfortunate memory lapses regarding lines, she was able to maintain her character the entire time, and with the help of pianist and music director Harry Collins, she keeps the show moving along at an exciting pace. Refreshingly, this cabaret enables us to see the person behind the dress and pearls, with moving ballads such as “Guess Who I Saw Today” and “Charade” giving a usually unexplored emotional depth to the femme fatale figure. We were finally allowed to sympathise and connect with the most interesting person in the genre, who unsurprisingly, was also given a wild and tragic backstory. Hayden Rodgers as writer has done a masterful job of providing clever justifications for her actions that nevertheless maintain the allure and wit that we have come to expect from the murderess.
Utilising mostly older musical theatre songs, this show does an excellent job of repositioning the audience to see the irony in songs that have the potential to be quite problematic. Listening to the potentially sexist lyrics of “Just an Old Fashioned Girl” becomes very funny when placed in the context of a woman who has just murdered her millionaire husband, and is pretending to be “the plain and simple kind” in order to fool the private eye. She bats her eyes and details how she’ll “be no trouble to my groom” only two songs after watching him bleed into the carpet, finishing with a glorious wink to the audience that has us cheering for more lies! Director Alexander Andrews, Caitlin Rose (both of whom conceptualised the show), and Rodgers must be commended on their ability to use a great tune with iffy content in a way that empowers our leading lady rather than making her seem just vapid and materialistic. Don’t get me wrong, she is materialistic, but she’s also highly self-aware, unapologetic, and brilliant- all of which come through in this cheeky performance.
Special props must also be given to Harry Collins, who is hilariously tormented throughout the cabaret by the star, who hands him crystal glasses, leans seductively between him and the music, and at a number of points murders him- all while he continues to play the piano! He does not miss a single beat, which frankly seems unbelievable to me, and their interactions are completely endearing.
Unfortunately, there were a few unpolished aspects of the show. At times the levels were off, meaning that the piano came close to overwhelming Rose’s voice and the big belted notes did not have as much impact as they could have. Whether the latter was the fault of the levels or fatigue is unclear, however either way there could have been more support for the singer. Additionally, people could clearly be heard talking in the bar area of the venue towards the end of the show, disrupting the emotional impact of “Guess Who I Saw Today”. Rose did an absolutely admirable job of performing through this, however, I regret to say that this is not the first time a soft ballad towards the end of a show has been interrupted by the chatter in the next room at The Newsagency. The venue should really consider closing the bar while the performances are in progress, or replacing the curtain that separates the rooms with something more sound-proof, if the talk is so crucial.
Overall, despite some avoidable hiccups, this show was witty, sexy and utterly charming. All involved should be incredibly proud of themselves. They have done a wonderful job of making a cabaret that has a cohesive story at its foundation rather than a theme or personal anecdotes, and have chosen to explore with depth, humour and sensitivity an absolutely fabulous character.
Photo Credit: Shakira Wilson
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.