Review By Regan Baker
It’s a beautiful, albeit chilly, Sunday night and I’m venturing back to Arcana Brisbane for the “Pink Martini Pop-up Cabaret,” a show that I have been looking forward to for weeks now. More so than just for the performance itself, but also to come back to this gorgeous venue which I have very quickly fallen in love with due to the wonderful staff and atmosphere they help create. I would be lying if I said cabaret was a strength of mine in terms of technical analysis, but my background in musical theatre and dramatic review certainly helps in part with some of the similar performance elements. And with a live eight-piece cabaret band and ten performers at the ready, we knew that we were in for something special so I wasn’t overly concerned about my writing to follow!
Director and choreographer Angelique Marie put together an incredible program for “Pink Martini” which comprised of some of the most recognisable cabaret numbers from across the globe and an ensemble of highly talented dancers and musicians. Marie had a strong vision for this directorial outing and wanted to make the performance as authentic as possible, assembling a cast that had strong roots grounded in Latin-American dance, many of whom originally called Brazil home. Her vision shone from the word go as feather dancers took to the stage to open the evening’s performance before introducing the multi-talented hostess Jamie Lin Shelton to really kick things into high gear with the 1966 Cabaret classic, Wilkommen.
Quite simply put, the evening just got better and better from there. Shelton deserves incredibly high praise for her performance and role as hostess as she truly immersed the audience in the atmosphere of cabaret. Whether that be her breathlessly seductive spoken word, or her ability to belt out song after song in not one – not even two – but five different languages (Portuguese, Latin, French, Spanish and a bit of Japanese)! Speaking of praise, recognition must also be given to alto sax player Ben Clinnick for stepping up to the plate and singing a love-song duet alongside Shelton. It was evident that Clinnick isn’t used to being in the spotlight as his movements around the stage were a little robotic, but he embraced the opportunity and has quite a nice voice to go alongside his phenomenal sax skills.
While I wish I had the word count to single out and discuss each and every one of; Elanore Haynes, Madalyn Milazzo, Leticia Pierzajec, Jenna Pleash, Beto Ribeiro, Dorian Ribero and of course, Angelique Marie, I simply do not have the time. What I can do however, is say that all of them were nearly flawless in their execution of a range of different dance styles while wrapped in outstanding Latin-American inspired costumes that were designed by Ruth Clarke. I will make a special mention of Beto Ribeiro though, as his diverse range of skills in both theatrical performance and dance were outstanding. Ribeiro went from performing amongst three of the beautiful female dancers in a menage-a-trois style routine to El Tango De Roxanne, to frocking a corset and black tights with little pink bows on them in a drag performance of Nat King Cole’s Nature Boy.
While “Pink Martini” was originally slated for the 2020 Anywhere Festival before the world went belly up, the delay in show to the 2021 season lead to the addition of one of my favourite parts of the night, a ten-minute circus routine performed by Rhylee Maree and Abby Kelso. The organisers of the Anywhere Festival reached out to Angelique Marie a few months before the start of the festival and asked if she had any space for two amazingly talented circus artists who didn’t have a routine long enough for a stand-alone show, to which she of course said, “yes.” Their routine was a powerful juxtaposition of a 1955 recording titled, “The Good wife’s Guide,” and Saygrace’s rendition of, “You Don’t Own Me.” As the beat shifted into the latter the audience cheered as the girls routine took to the sky and strongly represented the progression to a modern era of female empowerment.
Every element of “Pink Martini” was so cleverly thought out and executed with sheer brilliance; from the song choices, the selection of the artists and even the simple things like getting the audience up and dancing in a conga line. It is an absolute shame that this was the final performance of their show at this years Anywhere Festival, but in talking with Angelique after the show, she assures me she wants to take it on the road! So stay tuned and follow @evokedance_theatre on Instagram to keep in touch with any potential future dates!