Concourse Theatre, July 16


We now know what Jason Arrow does when he’s not playing Alexander Hamilton – not that he has much choice at the moment. The shame was that he only sang one song in this 75-minute show: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s They Just Keep Moving the Line (from the Smash TV series), a song that sounds like it fell off the back of Cabaret while Kander and Ebb were looking the other way, and in which Arrow cannily kept building the intensity.

Catherine Alcorn, and above with Verushka Darling. Photos: Phil Erbacher.

This live-stream cabaret was just what it set out to be: fun. Catherine Alcorn doesn’t always choose songs that best suit her talents, but she sure knows how to choose guests, pitting Arrow with iOTA, Jacqui Dark, Verushka Darling (as co-compere) and Eloise Eftos (as the outrageous Mandy, a diamond queen from South Africa, via Vaucluse).

In terms of surprise value, iOTA stole the show. The only commonality between his performances is his capacity to reinvent himself, and here he made I Don’t Know How to Love Him (Jesus Christ Superstar) more compelling and even troubling than was previously conceivable, his startling attire capped by a crown of thorns. Jacqui Dark was also formidable, interweaving her glorious mezzo with her non-operatic voice, and lending Tainted Love a Weimar veneer by singing it in German.

Alcorn’s three-quarters of the show displayed her ample vocal power, quick wit and winning smile, delivering Joni Mitchell’s River beautifully, by not forcing it and just letting it be. But she also sabotaged herself with pieces where “overwrought” is the only destination, such as Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight (partially saved by Tina Harris’s supple bass) and Christine McVie’s Say You Love Me.

The genuinely funny and wickedly satirical Verushka Darling had the ‘tween-song chat laden with more innuendos than a Carry On movie, and the whole show was underpinned by Anne-Maree McDonald’s competent quartet. Catherine & Friends do it again for Melbourne Digital Concert Hall on July 30: a guaranteed – and sometimes riotously entertaining – escape from reality.