It has often been said that the women in musical theatre end up with the showstoppers, but the latest show in the Cabaret Soiree series, Downstairs at the Maj, is set to turn that theory on its head.
Guy/Doll will give the male cast a chance to sing those showstoppers usually reserved for women, and the female members the memorable male tunes.
Perth correspondent, Craig Dalglish, had the chance to shoot some questions at director Nick Maclaine to find out more about this unique cabaret concept…
What can Perth audiences expect from Guy/Doll?
First class singing, dynamic performances, and massively entertaining twists on songs they’ll know and love – whether it’s a pop hit or a theatre showstopper!
Can you give us a brief history of the development of the show?
Izaak, Andrew and I wanted to do a new DownStairs at the Maj show that would be a departure from shows we’d done there previously – a revue (Tomfoolery), a comedy night (Parodies Lost) and a biographical musical (You’ve Got That Thing). Something we’ve always enjoyed in other people’s cabarets is ‘gender flipping’ – a performer doing a song that would normally be sung by a member of the opposite sex, like a man singing Britney or a woman singing Lou Reed. Ordinarily, of course, you won’t get too many of those in the one show. But it dawned on us that we had scores of ideas using this device – enough to fill several shows, in fact! So we set out to make the best show we possibly could.
What are your favourite female and male showstoppers?
A common lament, and there’s some truth in it! For women – ‘Anything Goes’, and ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ from Gypsy. For men – ‘Anthem’ from Chess, and the exhilarating ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’ from Guys and Dolls.
What excites you about Guy/Doll?
The combination of the familiar and the new. Hearing a woman sing a man’s song, or vice versa, can change the way you hear it – and sometimes we’ve gone even further, transforming existing accompaniments into thrilling new covers.
What do you hope audiences take away from the performance?
If people go away thinking, “I’d never thought of those songs in that way before!”, that’s terrific – but all we’re ultimately trying to do with this show is entertain.
In directing the show what has been the hardest thing?
Choosing from the hundred possible interpretations of any one song.
Getting out of the way and letting the performers tear into great music.
Can you tell us about your cast and what drew you to cast the leading players?
We wanted to fill the cast with singers, or actors, who could nail a tune to the back of the theatre and give compelling interpretations of lyrics. And I couldn’t be happier with whom we’ve cast! Julia Jenkins is cabaret dynamite – a ferociously talented, velvet-toned songstress. Will O’Mahony and I were doing Shakespeare in the Park together, and he sounded so amazing singing in the dressing room that I had to get him to audition. He’s made his mark as an actor, but he’s got pipes. And David Bowyer and Corinne Cowling – both fellow students at WAAPA – combine vocal prowess with comedy or drama in ways that are just outstanding. And of course, the four of them work together beautifully. They’re all so different – as vocalists and as people – and the mix is magical.
I also have to mention Jangoo Chapkahana, our musical director. He’s in the absolute upper echelon as a musician both nationally and internationally, and he has serious cred within classical and jazz circles alike. So having him as part of the team and contributing to the sound of the show has been a gift and a delight.
What is the best thing about working with the cast?
There are no egos in the room – just bucketloads of (their) talent.
How did you get into directing?
I don’t consider myself to be a director, and I’ve only ever directed new pieces I’ve helped to create. What I love is guiding ideas into a life on the stage, and throwing open possibilities for the performers to explore. I’ve always got faith in them – all I sometimes do is ‘nudge’ them towards the vision that’s in my head.
Who/ what has been your greatest influence in pursuing a career in the theatre?
Even though I studied opera there, as opposed to acting or music theatre, going to WAAPA has fortified my belief that being in the theatre is what I want to do – and it’s helped me to understand what it will take to make that keep happening.
What excites you about theatre in Perth?
The sense of momentum and change. New companies, new venues, the fringe explosion, an expanded comedy scene – it all means more theatre for everyone.
What is next for you?
A break in Sydney and Melbourne before completing my final semester of law. And maybe some new cabarets later this year, including a Christmas revue!
Downstairs at the Maj (His Majesty’s Theatre)
825 Hay Street, Perth
Wednesday 27 – Saturday 30 June
Tickets from $45.00
Bookings BOCS Ticketing or 9484 1133