There are some performers that you just can’t help but be whisked away in their story and admire their talent, making us proud of the artists working in Australia. Mike McLeish is one such performer. Mostly recognised for his award-winning portrayal of Paul Keating in Keating! The Musical, McLeish has had a tough time since his glory days.
McLeish’s immediate rapport with the small audience in the Space Theatre (it’s a crime that his show was not sold out!) showcased the “hard times” at Dracula’s Theatre Restaurant and the perils of the auditions process despite a glowing CV. While the theme of the difficulties of being a performer is far from original in this festival, McLeish puts a fresh spin on the story and has an endearing quality to his performance.
As a musician, McLeish is up there with the best talents in the festival. His original pieces often tug at the heart strings and his rocking ‘Imported Hit Broadway Musical Theatre Blues’ number was a ripper. Add to this some gangsta rap, haunting ballads and a fantastic cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ and the audience couldn’t hold back… cheering and yelling out throughout the 60 minute performance.
McLeish’s audience interaction was intimate and seemed natural and spontaneous. Even the encore was refreshingly “unrehearsed” (at least it seemed to be), asking the Stage Manager if he had time and acquiescing an audience request for ‘Light on the Hill’ from Keating! The Musical.
A real treat and a definite highlight of the Cabaret Festival, this reviewer hopes McLeish has moved on to bigger and better things than Dracula’s – perhaps we’ll even see him in an imported hit broadway musical some time soon!