California Crooners Club (Parker + Mr French)
September 3 – 11
Conceived by Australian television star Hugh Sheridan, “California Crooners Club” was born of late night banter with talented mates Emile Welman of South Africa and Kansas’ Gabe Roland backstage in the jazz clubs of Hollywood. The idea of starting a band to merge their love of jazz classics with their varied styles of singing, seems simple in its premise. The result, however, is something incredibly special, beyond definition apart from declaration that the show is a must-see.
Expectation is of a playlist treat of traditional tunes of the Sinatra sort of croon. The classics make appearance with ‘I’ve got you under my Skin’ and a ‘Come Fly with Me’ medley, but beyond its jazzy opening, it is quickly apparent the show is simultaneously not like what was expected, as, backed by a band of excellent musicians, the trio breaks into a bouncy take on Bieber’s ‘Sorry’.
If cabaret hates rules, then “California Crooners Club” is cabaret at its best with its marvellous mixed bag of numbers serving as one of its most engaging aspects. The mix of old and new is just right, featuring, as it does, tributes to Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse alongside a Cole porter medley, Ray Charles number and Sia’s soaring ‘Chandelier’. The program’s curation is ingenious, no better evidenced than in move from ‘The Bare Necessities’ to ‘Jungle Boogie’. And boogie they do, sometimes along with audience members grabbed to dance in the aisles.
This is an energetic yet still charming show from genuine, generous performers, thanks to its playful banter and serenades to audience members. There are lots of laughs courtesy of some obligatory “Packed to the Rafters” puns and Adelaide digs in acknowledgement of Sheridan’s home town, making it sure to send audience members home with the biggest of feel-good smiles.
Original numbers are a highlight, including a standout ‘I Need You’ (garnering immediate audience calls to play it again) and the equally-peppy newly-released single ‘Just a Little More’. Together Sheridan, Welman and Roland’s sounds harmonise to make even these unfamiliar songs feel like old favourites, with voices that are brightly individual but also rich in depth and accord.
Clearly, “California Crooners Club” is one of the highlights of this year’s Brisbane Festival. The only negative is that its 75 minute running time flies by far too quickly. With all the dapper swing and style of The Rat Pack, even in rap, these cool cats cast their spell so successfully, that getting up to return to the real world seems initially impossible.