By Lisa Lanzi
Sitting in the Gluttony venue at 9:30pm as wisps of haze drift onstage and feeling a little of the Adelaide chill sneak in, I wasn’t at all sure what I was about to experience as I hadn’t seen Reeve in his Bowie/glam rock Rebel show during Fringe 2019. After some slightly confusing but amusing offstage voiceover antics, a tall, black-clad artist bursts onstage in patent red platforms and regales us with a virtuosic Sweet Transvestite, channelling Tim Curry and definitely giving a certain recently-disgraced, let’s not mention his name, Australian Frankenfurter a run for his money. I was won over instantly. At first I was slightly disappointed that we were going to be subjected to backing tracks although I know and understand only too well the expense of providing live music and backing vocals. My fears were dispelled though as I doubt I have ever heard such high quality pre-recorded backing, at least in a fringe gig context.
Stewart Reeve was always knew he was going to be a performer, despite living on the Gold Coast amongst, shall we say a less cultured community, and then having little creative choice but to place his considerable energies into the local community theatre scene. It was there however where he found his place and shone in many stage appearances in musicals like The Producers, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Avenue Q. The surprising development though was that he found he could be a kind of vocal chameleon. Reeve explains that he doesn’t claim the title of impersonator, preferring to describe what he so brilliantly achieves as “re-creating a sound”.
An example of this is his hilarious rendition of the electronic checkout scan ‘beep’, quite useful apparently if you (tongue firmly in cheek) wish to pinch a few avocados! There was also a tragically funny voiced ‘recorder’ instrumental version of My Heart Will Go On, complete with bum notes, as only the recorder can make them. The audience was in stitches and the sound took many of us back to various school music group recitals.
This performance is packed with phenomenal songs and snatches of humour and audience participation. Fortunately Reeve is blessed with an incredible voice and vocal range (and training) because few could deliver the energy, passion and precision throughout so many varied songs in such a condensed SOLO show.
We are gifted with a glimpse into Reeves’ mum’s CD collection - shifting gender not an issue and all the nuances there: Anastasia’s Left Outside Alone, Hootie and the Blowfish Only Wanna Be With You and Macy Gray’s I Try. Then with hand puppets poised, dialogue and song perfectly delivered, a very fast-paced, astonishing one man version of the I’m Not Gay duet from Avenue Q.
As the performance continued we heard Sweet Dreams Are Made of This by the Eurhythmics, met Donald Trump vocalizing Green Day’s American Idiot and swayed to an emotional By My Side from Michael Hutchence and INXS.
With such a breadth of performing experience apart from his own productions, it is not surprising that Reeves has excellent comedic timing, a captivating stage presence and oozes professionalism. He has graced many stages in Melbourne including Dracula’s Cabaret and worked on cruise ships, all great training grounds for perseverance and being in the moment with your act.
The stories come as thick and fast as the songs in this performance and are met with much laughter. Reeves recalls his 80s glam rock cover band experience and the glamorous dressing rooms that always seemed to be located in the disabled toilet. Accompanying this story was ABC’s The Look of Love and a flourishing quick change into a red ‘glam’ jacket. There was also an opportunity for a little audience call and answer work with Queen’s Anther One Bites The Dust. Again, not many singers could channel Freddie quite so reverently and well.
Reeves also spoke with great affection about his previous show Rebel and his admiration for David Bowie. He also revealed his new and passionate version of Bowie’s Life On Mars with backing track taken to another level from Melbourne’s Shanon D Whitelock.
There are not that many shows left for this iteration of Chameleon, but Stewart Reeve will return to Adelaide. Make sure to book! This man needs to be seen and heard, more than once.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.