Review By Lisa Lanzi
Goodwood Theatre & Studios in Adelaide has a long, stellar history of providing space and support for Youth, Community and Professional performing arts endeavours. The current Director/Producers with admirable theatre and technical cred, Simone Avramidis and Chris Iley, have re-invigorated the physical space and the ambience with enthusiasm and dedication and are forging ahead with fresh ideas.
The latest inspired offering is COMEBACK - a mini festival supporting local artists to re-mount their work or trial something new. As part of this August program, Taylor Nobes, accompanied by Samuel Lau, has crafted her own cabaret: Music & You. Nobes is an acting graduate from Adelaide College of the Arts and has already added some notable creative work to her CV. It is exciting to be at the premiere of new work by talented younger artists who you are fairly certain will make some waves during a long career.
Music & You takes the audience for a wander through songs and music that have significance in this artist’s life. Beginning with a spare, shallow stage space, stool, keyboard and LED-candle-lit stage, an audio montage (featuring a few recognisable Adelaide voices) allows us a peek into several peoples’ ideas around music and meaning. Samuel Lau takes the stage and his piano mastery opens the show as Nobes enters from the rear of the stalls singing the Celine Dion hit It's All Coming Back to Me Now. As the singer strolls around the audience she ‘interviews’ folks as to their favourite music genres and cheekily comments on same, just as she delivers the song lyrics in a lightly sardonic way.
Seated on stage next to Lau, the artist turns to some Elton John. Nobes’ take on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is smouldering and leans a little toward jazz styling as she makes it her own. Her inspiration for using the song is around the notion of staying with what you know and trust after trying to change to please others. Before she launches into Bette Midler’s The Rose, Nobes leads the audience on a little with a dedication to her Grandma and how much she loved that song. Naturally we all start to wonder but, fortunately, we are assured Grandma is not dead and is in fact seated in the front row.
We were warned early on that audience participation would be an expectation at some point and the ‘opportunity’ occurs when the backup dancers are grandly announced. Shining in the role of the embarrassed and gentle sidekick, Lau silently informs Nobes that said dancers have failed to show. Here, the audience becomes the entertainment as most shrink in their seats attempting invisibility while Nobes strides among us to choose her victims. As Stella and Stevie are persuaded on stage, a backing track of Kylie Minogue’s On A Night Like This begins, as does some furious bopping, and quite a bit of hilarious off-the-cuff dance move cueing from Nobes.
Also using a backing track, Nobes smashes out Madonna’s Like A Prayer with accompanying energetic choreography and deliberate kitsch with much synchronised clapping from the audience. A delicious mood shift comes next as Nobes exits and Lau hurries on stage finding himself ‘abandoned’ by the boss. Nonplussed, he sits at the keyboard until inspiration moves him to begin playing. This young actor and musician is in total control as a pianist and stillness falls as the magic of his musical interlude keeps us focussed until the last note.
Maintaining the subdued air, Nobes returns to sing one of her own compositions. We learn how the song originated from a dark place but are reminded to take care of our own ‘specialness’ and believe in our strengths. The song is a hauntingly poetic ode with gentle chord backing from Lau. I was reminded of the early work from Dido as the melody drifted from low tones to lighter, sweeter notes and back again. “… It’s not your fault darling/It’s just the way the world goes ’round …”
The singer exits once more to return draped in a deep purple cloak and dazzle us with her love of the Disney villains, specifically the female ones. Poor Unfortunate Souls (lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken) is from The Little Mermaid and is a BIG sing for an artist. Nobes certainly has the voice for this but her breath control was not at its best so the impact was lessened. However, her stage presence and ability to project a character with confidence and strength is impressive.
One more backing track was put to good use for the finale. Jennifer Lopez’ Let’s Get Loud was a wonderful call out to artists, and in fact any person, to throw off the burdens once in a while and simply enjoy all that life has to offer. The surprise during this song was Samuel Lau adeptly playing a trombone during the last verse and chorus of the song to great delight.
I would love to see Taylor Nobes do a take two of Music & You in a true cabaret setting, rather than on a proscenium stage - although she did a wonderful job of breaking that fourth wall and communicating well with a big audience. A combination of a once off show, dealing with ‘first night nerves’, plus the pressure of writing and performing your own show where you are YOU and not hiding behind a role is a huge task.
That music and song can transport us into and out of so many different emotional states is a universally wonderful phenomenon and this show certainly encapsulates the delight.