Review: Jim Morrison: Kaleidoscope — Hayes Cabaret Season

Luigi Lucente’s Jim Morrison: Kaleidoscope, a dreamy trip tribute to rock legend Jim Morrison, is haphazard – but it’s supposed to be. There’s a poetry to this performance that doesn’t always sit perfectly, but it’s invigoratingly different, and if it’s sometimes difficult – well, so was Jim Morrison.

Luigi Lucente channels Jim Morrison.
Luigi Lucente channels Jim Morrison.

Bio-cabarets, where the artist assumes the persona of a public figure and sings their songs, tend to follow a specific formula. Some are excellent and some are not, but they hit familiar, traditional beats: the childhood, the struggle for fame, the height of success, the inevitable downfall, some reflections, maybe a quiet moment of ironic triumph.

Lucente’s show (written and musically directed by Lucente, directed by Nicholas Christo) refuses to fit the mold. It’s dreamlike and nightmarish in turns, with dramatic lighting cutting through swathes of darkness to find Lucente/Morrison, alone with a piano and a drink. Morrison opines, swaggers, flashes us a boyish grin.

There are quotes, snatches of poetry. Asides to the audience. Snippets of memorable reviews. Philosophy. Indulgent intellectualism. There’s no real through-line to grasp. He weaves a spell and it’s disorienting, but as the show settles into itself it’s easy to let it take off and wander through a veritable maze of non-sequiturs. A little – just a dash more – structure would help the piece feel more thoughtful and reasoned.

But the heart and soul of the cabaret are the songs, Jim Morrison’s best expressions of creative self and Lucente’s too; he plays piano sensitively and yet confidently; there’s an alluring sense of command that comes with his comfort behind the keys, when Lucente’s entire body language changes, as though Morrison’s pretension and rock star persona gives way to something more honest.

And Lucente’s voice is like mercury, heavy silver that slides, lightning fast, from something soft and yearning to a glittery bombast, full-throated and emotional and very strong but so pure. “Bird of Prey” becomes mesmerising, his arrangements so new and enthralling that they somehow move from being so not Morrison to being so intensely Morrison.

This is not a perfect cabaret – sometimes too messy, sometimes not messy enough – but Lucente is an incredible performer, an undeniable force. And thank god he is ambitious; he’s more than talented enough to keep his audience interested and create something arresting, entertaining, and curious. Not all artists are creative and not all singers are artists. Lucente is all of these things.

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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