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Wrecking Ball and Vinyl Viagra – the little red company at Brisbane Powerhouse

Despite having theatrical friends up the wazoo and schlepping myself to every show in town, I have never actually met Naomi Price. More’s the pity, because after first seeing (and loving) her in the fabulous and successful cabaret, Rumour Has It at the Judith Wright Centre and now in her second pop diva offering – Wrecking Ball, at the Brisbane Powerhouse – I actually believe that if the universe deigned to bring us together, we would be firm friends. Can anyone say fan crush? Not only does the girl sing like the devil himself crafted her chords, she’s funny as a loon, shakes her booty like no one’s business and knocks back punter’s wine – right out of their hands. Oh my Lord, please be my friend Naomi?

Wrecking Ball is tribute to the short yet colourful life of transformative train-wreck of a pop starlet – Miley Cyrus, daughter of Country King Billy Rae Cyrus, God-daughter of the Queen herself, Dolly Parton, and vassal of Disney heroine Hannah Montana. Miley Cyrus’ very public and very electric transformation from squeaky clean alter ego Hannah Montana, to cement ball licking, clothes eschewing, bottom twerking teenage dirtbag  has been a sight not even the blind could miss.

Naomi Price and the Little Red Company give you the best and the worst of Miley in what is, surprisingly, an emotional and compassionate glimpse into what it means to grow up and out, and into yourself.

Ms Price and her team give us songs from Miley, Dolly, Billy Rae, and others which I will never know because the program failed to give me a song list. I realise I’m scrambling for a negative, but as a compulsive post-show Googler, this is my pet hate! How am I to obsess over the tunes I didn’t recognise while dunking a bikkie into my midnight cuppa, without a set list?! Little Red Company  get on that, please.

The band was enormously talented, in particular backing vocalist Rachel Everett-Jones, who has her own moments to shine in this production. As for the instrumentalists, Jason McGregor, Michael Manikus, Andrew Johnson and Mik Easterman – all were superb, and handsome to boot (who doesn’t love a sexy drummer chewing nonchalantly on a toothpick?) I would say to the guitarist, please don’t change guitars in ballady-spotlighty moments; you’re pulling focus.

The set was engaging, the lighting by Jason Glenwright well-thought out and noticeably beautiful in moments of poignancy, and the sound (uncredited in the program) was mixed beautifully.

I’m aware this review is already a love-letter to Ms Price so I’ll keep it short, but I believe her success lies in her uncanny ability to do the most accurate impersonations of pop stars, sing their songs better than they do, and yet succeed in making the cabaret all about herself.  I am certain Wrecking Ball was as much a comment on the life of Naomi as it was Miley’s, and no doubt chunky credit for this must also go to co-writer Adam Brunes.

Ms Price’s emotional connection to the piece was palpable; there are few that can make a solitary tear fall down a cheek while belting out a sustained B-flat, without meaning it. She is a true cabaret artist, in the best sense of the word.

Speaking of women that I need to be friends with, let’s all take a moment to appreciate Rhonda Burchmore. I have never met Ms Burchmore, but when she sat on the step adjacent to my seat in the Visy theatre and stroked my (genuine American snakeskin cowboy) boot, remarking, “Look at these boots!” I knew we were soul-mates. As a fellow ‘giant’ I can appreciate the plight of a leggy broad in a short woman’s profession, so it hurts me to say that her show, Vinyl Viagra didn’t tickle me pink as Wrecking Ball did.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the peel-away sequinned cossies, balloons, and scantily clad vogueing male dancers (Gregory Dunn and Matt Browning), while eye-catching, were as naff as a cream pie with a cherry on top, but when there’s a front row full of drag queens, you know a gal’s got an audience to please, and I got the sneaking suspicion I was not her target market. Fortunately, once one gets past the grand clichés, it’s impossible not to enjoy Ms Burchmore’s infectious charm, cognac-infused vocals and eclectic song choices (apart from Barbie Girl, obviously). There were some really clever mash-ups (the Sinead O’Connor/Miley Cyrus mix alone is worth the ticket price), and tributes to divas old and new.

Now, I didn’t want to go there because we needn’t be reductionist or ageist, but – the legs. Rhonda is 54. She has a good 20 years on me, but I would be thrilled to strut about in those pins, for just a day. I’ve always thought her dancing was the best card she had to play, and although she gave us a taste of tapping and spinning, we were left wanting more.

It’s a fabulous and fun double bill, so get into it Brisbane. If you want to see two women sing Miley Cyrus better than Miley Cyrus, you’ll have to be quick – the season ends on May 31st.

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