The Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2019 has presented a new Australian musical at Chapel off Chapel. True to their values, the festival has championed Australian talent for the past ten years. This new work by Australian composer, orchestrator and performer, Bradley McCaw, has a distinctly local flavour. Originally workshopped in Brisbane, this Melbourne production is a further step in the show’s evolution, but it’s still a work in progress. Presented concert-style as a series of scenes, the story is quite basic. The action takes place over the space of 24 hours on New Year’s Eve somewhere in the suburbs of Australia. We hear stories from various characters as the hours draw them into the New Year.
Starting out at a New Year’s Eve party, we meet four characters who are looking for a new beginning and hoping that things are going to get better. There are some terrific comic moments like “Comin’ in from the Suburbs”, a quasi-rap style group number with some very slick soul-style singing from Imogen Spendlove. “Doin’ it for the Kids” was another crowd pleaser with two competitive couples taking their kids to weekend sports. My personal favourite was “The Man in the White House down the Street”, sung with real sincerity by Natalie O’Donnell. In fact there were ten very gifted singers in this production and to hear any of them sing was worth the price of admission.
On this occasion, the order in which these scenes happened were not in sequence, so the narrative was unclear unless explained by the composer as it progressed. Thankfully, the musical numbers are strong enough to hold the audience and the performers talented enough to keep us listening. Some numbers bordered on mawkish, especially with their overtly Aussie references, but there were much more sophisticated pieces. The ones that really moved me were those most recently added. The numbers with piano accompaniment, skilfully played by Shanon Whitelock were the ones that showcased the compositions best. Some songs had backing tracks and piano, which were too dense and drowned out the voices. The singers then sang more loudly over them and it was just too amplified for the setting of a musical.
Luckily, most of the songs stand up on their own merit and McCaw was fortunate that he was able to assemble such a fantastic group of singers to bring them to life. Bradley McCaw himself is a fine singer in his own right and at one stage was one of the Ten Tenors. His solo number, “She Walks In” is a very moving piece that sets up the group finale. The audience were very entertained and it was a pleasure to hear such talented performers in a new work that deserves to be staged in full. I’d like to see it fully developed so that more Australians can see and hear other Australians tell their stories.
Jon Jackson reviewed Bradley McCaw’s “Any Moment” presented at Chapel off Chapel on June 25, 2019.