The Parade Studio at NIDA has, with a picture of the Queen and a lectern, been transformed into a Central Coast Scout Hall. The coffee and biscuits are up the back next to the gym mats; there’s a tae kwon do class coming in next. We are here for international music therapist Jan van de Stool and her class I Get The Music In You.
Jan van de Stool is the brilliant creation of Queenie van de Zandt, who has a formidable understanding of comedy. Her committment to her creation is impressive. There is not one action Jan takes that feels anything less than effortless, whether it’s demonstrating her fail-safe dance moves (if you ever need them in your performance, you too could harness the power of the “Wash That Man”) or trying to hypnotise her audiences into buying her merchandise.
What Queenie van de Zandt possess that Jan does not is a voice that’s nothing short of incredible. While comedy precedes musicality for much of the act and it’s stellar acting and crafted routine most of the time, the truly stunning moments come from the performances of Jan’s ”graduates” – characters just as vividly drawn as Jan herself – who perform for Jan’s current audience.
It’s all fun and games until van de Zandt performs as Lucy, a graduate of Jan’s who sings a simple, heartbreaking, tonally pure song that completely silences the comfortable and laughing audiences. It’s completely understated but thoroughly beautiful, and that makes it a show-stopper. The song is met with a beat of silence before the audience can gather themselves back into reality enough to applaud; once you’ve met the voice of Queenie van de Zandt, you crave more.
It’s all a tease. A raucous and thoroughly enjoyable tease. Jan’s graduates include a woman in her nineties who has reclaimed the confidence to sing through her courses, a young guy with too much swagger and a penchant for Michael Jackson, and then finally a young woman who consistently ruins everything by belting the final notes in her songs. Will Jan let the student perform when she thinks belting is unnecessary and violent? The audience remains in suspense for much of the show.
Of course, while in suspense the audience is guided through a series of techniques and person recollections; gets to eavesdrop on conversations between Jan and the long-suffering Helen, who speaks only through a series of chords on the piano in a secret language the two have devised; and quite possibly only stops laughing in order to breathe.
Jan van de Stool belongs in international comedy festivals as a flawless character creation that is reminiscent in its completeness and believability as Alan Partridge; Queenie van de Zandt belongs front and center in concert, in musicals. Go and see Queenie in King Kong next year, but before you do, drop by the good old scout hall and meet Jan. You really need her therapy.