Memoirs of a Showgirl

Slide, October 10

shay-stafford_-0909_CRCarlaCoulson_largeA girl from Brisbane follows her dream to all the way to Paris, and becomes a principal dancer at firstly the Moulin Rouge and then the Lido. The dream lasts for 13 years. Shay Stafford’s story is too good not to tell, and there’s a show here, but it’s not quite the one being presented.

Combine that story with her charm, looks – not unlike a young Julie Andrews – and expert dance skills, and you have a stronger basis for a cabaret show than many. Stafford and her husband Bryce Corbett wrote and directed Memoirs of a Showgirl (based on their book of the same name), and she enchanted us with her tales of how she came to star at the two most famous cabarets on earth and what that was like. She also danced bewitchingly.

The problem is that she and Corbett decided to make this a sort of variety show, with singers, an aerialist, audience participation and a solo piano spot (while pics of Stafford doing the business in Paris were shown). Corbett, meanwhile, fulfilled the MC role, but without an especial flair for the job.

Solutions were certainly required as to what was going to happen while Stafford was changing costumes, but, fundamentally, the show cries out for more of her and less of everyone else. The exception was Ben Palumbo, an entertaining singer who should take the stage whenever she is off slipping into something less comfortable.

Another issue was that nearly all the music – if asinine disco is music – was pre-recorded. Dispensing with the services of everyone other than Palumbo and the backing dancers, and instead employing a little band, would make the whole show more engaging.

Presumably the choreography was Stafford’s, and she was in a different league to the other dancers. Her reminiscing should be spun out more with specific anecdotes, and interspersed with Palumbo’s singing when a necessary. Otherwise just let her dancing and the feather-and-sequin costumes do the talking.