Chanteuse celebration

Oh Lady Be Good (Melissa Western)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Turbine Studio

June 14


From the moment that Melissa Western begins her cabaret show “Oh Lady Be Good”, emerging from within a blanket of darkness to seduce audiences with a sultry rendition of Nina Simone’s “In the Dark”, the depth and quality of her voice are clear. And over the course of the show it is certainly easy to succumb to the seductive power of her smooth and soulful sound. Perhaps, she was, as she later claims, born in the wrong era.

Moving from smoky jazz and playful ditties to sassy solos and ballsy blues, Western takes audiences through the signature styles of Marilyn Monroe, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland and the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin (amongst others), including the titular tune ‘Oh Lady Be Good’ by Ella Fitzgerald. This gives the show a jukebox feel (#inagoodway) as she dips into the catalogues of these musical icons. Ediaf Piaf’s ‘La Vie En Rose’ is a goosebump-inducing highlight and when Western hits the high notes of Fitzgerald’s ‘Love for Sale’ it is easy to see why the show was sold out so far in advance. Western certainly has a very good voice, and the passionate warmth of her performance of these timeless classics is a joy to watch.


The jazz band is wonderful, given ample opportunity to show their talents within the numbers. Dialogue is filled with fascinating anecdotes and interesting information (like explanation of how instrumental Monroe was in Fitzgerald’s blossoming career), intertwined with personal reflections. Humour features too, in animated delivery of Carmen Miranda’s ‘I like you very much’ and the song choice of ‘I Need a Little Sugar in my Bowl’ by the Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith.

Cabaret is soul food; there’s nothing like it and in “Oh Lady Be Good”, Melissa Western offers up a feast of charming celebration of the chanteuses of the 20th century. It’s what she is about, a mashup of Ella’s emotion and Marilyn’s va va voom. And even those non-jazz aficionados in the audience can only be grateful, for time shared with this lady is good time, well spent.

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