[AUSTRALIA ~ WORLD PREMIERE]
Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, Sun 17 Jun.
The beautiful set design, with its collage of instruments behind the grand piano, elevated centre stage and luscious drapes promised a rich and classy, eclectic mix of top class music, and the show did not let us down.
Tom Waits is one of the most distinctive writers and musicians of our time, a prolific poet of sleazy street stories, setting seedy, smoky and scintillating scenes with characters you can smell in tales of tough life and tender hearts.
Mikelangelo opened with Innocent When You Dream. His deep sonorous voice is totally suited to Waits’ music and he was at his best in this show. With no introductions, the stunning array of fabulous singers just kept showing up and adding to the delicious mix. Ali McGregor, Queenie van de Zandt and Carla Lippis would drift in, sometimes playing percussion, singing, and wandering off again, all delightfully mysterious and atmospheric.
The fantastic six-piece band was as eclectic and brilliant as Wait’s music, led by Musical Director and gorgeous jazz pianist Charly Zastrau, who also featured melodica on several numbers. A violinist playing bowed saw and theramin added hauntingly exotic sounds perfect for this collection of whacky and wonderful songs.
To add another dimension to the joy of this performance, Butt Kapinski, bearing ‘his’ own down-light, entered amongst the audience to enchant and delight us with What’s He Building In There? At times, one of the back drapes became a projection screen to show clips from Tom Waits’ films (he is an accomplished actor) leading into appropriate songs like Ice Cream Man.
Joey Arias wandered on stage as if by accident, almost a little disoriented and floored us all with a heart melting version of This One’s From the Heart.
The delicious feast went on and on: Ali McGregor’s flawless Midnight Lullaby, the fabulous Carla Lippis’ Valentine’s Day, the unforgettably moving Martha from Queenie van de Zandt and Mikelangelo and cast doing Hoist That Rag and so much more.
[Queenie van de Zants’ version of Martha was so beautifully heartbreaking that not only did I cry during her touching performance but so did the woman sitting next to me. – Ed.]
This was a generous and beautifully directed feast of sumptuous songs, extraordinary singers, musicians and performers, with layers being added until the very last with an enthralling aerial performance by ‘Lucky Wheels’.
The full cast finale of Waltzing Matilda, one of Waits’ most loved songs – in Australia, anyway – was the icing on this very delicious cake. A spectacular show of an understated, undisputable musical genius in a multitude of forms.