Review: Debora Krizak’s CABBAret – Slide

ABBA is such a cultural touchstone that there’s approximately one billion cover bands, not to mention the long-lasting stage show and the impossibly mystifyingly cast film. Australia warmed to ABBA when they burst onto the music scene, so it seems almost like a natural conclusion that we have ended up at Slide, where Debora Krizak has designed a cabaret called – what else? – CABBAret. 

Cabbaret.
Cabbaret.

Krizak is a talented performer who is rightfully drawing positive attention to herself of late. A standout in Australia’s recent touring cast of A Chorus Line, deemed a hit by audiences and Helpmann voters alike, she also attracted sincere praise for her roles in Sweet Charity at the Hayes Theatre earlier this year – an impressive feat given the calibre of performances in that small, defiantly wonderful production.

As the heart and soul of ABBA in this show, she performs without the protective layer of a character, and for the most part she succeeds. The writing is a bit shaky in spots, and there’s a Rolf Harris joke that serves no purpose but to be edgy, it seems, but Krizak’s voice is her true power and it always rings true, even if she’s singing “Waterloo” in a onesie she bought from Best and Less.

Really, though, Krizak’s secret weapon is the Frida to her Agnetha, the delightful Christine Byrne. The two women seem to possess a kind of vocal playfulness; there’s a delight in their harmonies, there’s a comfort in their musical interaction, their mostly wordless gestures as they relate to each other through the story of a song or two.

There’s not much really left to be said about ABBA – a fact Krizak herself addresses directly with a healthy serving of tongue in cheek, listing all the ABBA tribute groups and/or musicals in which her musicians and herself alone have been involved – and the revisiting of the music and the vague story of the band and their relationship dramas is merely a pleasant way, in conceit, to spend an hour or so.

What really makes it interesting is Krizak, who has star power for days and a sense of fun that still remembers to have empathy for her source. “Chiquitita” is sung with real affection, and there’s a clear sense of loyalty to the group even when she’s singing “Dancing Queen” in the style of a few different Australian bands, more or less just for fun, or when she reveals her comfortable, impractical, bizarrely funny choice of outfit.

She sings beautifully, but too beautifully, almost; she soars above Slide and outside the grasp of her audience. Next time, let’s hope Krizak chooses to tackle something a little more personal; she is worth celebrating, and rather than celebrating a band that’s been celebrated to death, it would be nice to celebrate Krizak herself, a bona fide, slow-burning, steadily ascending star.

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and is the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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