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Review: Simply the Best at the Empire Tent, Gluttony

Review By Carly Fisher

Taking residence in the Empire Tent at Gluttony, Simply The Best: The Music of Tina Turner is a fast paced, high energy hour of the best of Tina's songs, interwoven with stories about her life and her career from a performer who can only be described as a SUPREMELY talented fan of Tina herself, Cleopatra Higgins.

Higgins is a star in this show. She has the Tina voice and the Tina moves downpat and, like Tina herself, knows how to command her audience like a true diva can. She works that room, using every inch of the tent at times to connect with her audience and ensure that everyone is having a great time, and a nostalgic time. And this is an important note - Higgins does here what every great tribute artist should do. She plays on our nostalgia for the songs so that you can hear buzzes of excitement around the room as the audience clock which song she is going to sing before she announces the title (as if to proclaim themselves a true fan) or little snippets of stories from the row behind laughing about memories they have with this song. When you sing covers and everyone knows what they want to get out of the songs, there is no better plan than to remind us of where and when we first fell in love with them, and Higgins seems to absolutely nail this technique.

Unique to this tribute show from the others I have seen of late is the dedication to Tina's story as well as her music - an addition that I loved and which I commend both Higgins and her band, and the presenting company, Night Owl Shows, on. We were offered slides up the back to read off with information about her upbringing and then told stories about her childhood, her career, her relationship and her divorce from Higgins. It made the music stand with much greater meaning and I thoroughly enjoyed this addition and applaud them greatly for this research and commitment to the person behind the songs.

Higgins, adorned in a sparkly silver dress and high sparkly shoes, literally shined and the set chosen hit all the right spots with the audience including hits like Proud Mary, Simply The Best, River Deep, What’s Love Got To Do With It and more. As a West End veteran, I anticipated that her vocals would be strong but there is something very different about taking to a tent with a loud band and a concert like show to belt out massive song after massive song for a high energy hour (with literally like 4 sips of water...she never takes a break! Very impressive) night after night of Fringe. I hope to see Higgins back in Australia soon with more great music to share!

One critique - and this would be more with concerts of this nature in general than just this show - is the consistently late and hard to hear introduction of the band. It takes only 1 minute out of the set to introduce the band without super loud music playing that muffles our ability to hear their names. They work really hard out on the stage and, having recently seen a number of artists stopping this trend and taking time out of their set to properly introduce or acknowledge the work of their musicians, it bothers me now to see old habits of 'rock concert' intros continuing. Let's make a conscious effort, across all shows, to show the band some love and give them a minute of intros too.

There are a lot of cover shows now at the fringe - you can almost see any artist that you liked back in the day in a new cover show in a tent or nearby venue throughout Mad March. Simply the Best is a very good one of these! I think balanced with some fresh new works through the fringe, they're a fun night out to celebrate a bit of nostalgia. And if Tina's music is your thing even a little bit, you should certainly catch this show!

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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