More than a Boy (Tom Oliver)
Brisbane Powerhouse, Turbine Studio
November 24 – 27
Tom Oliver is a fabulous entertainer – charismatic, energetic and of fantastic voice and “More Than a Boy” more than does justice to his talents. The one-man cabaret show, which features an eclectic mix of original songs (written by Tom, Andrew McNaughton and Wes Carr), theatre tunes and reworked contemporary hits, is a playful right-of-passage about family and adventure, a tale that is close-to-home for Oliver.
It is the type of story that is written in our very humanity… of a Croatian boy who, dreaming of a life away from the turmoil of a united Yugoslavia, migrates to New Zealand. With pathos and humour, Oliver shares tell of the sacrifices that must come with dislocation from family and heritage, but enlightens the moods with some skilled characterisation, never missing an accented beat. In its title song too, he delivers outstanding vocals and impressive ability to hold a note, both within the show proper and in later refrain. His share of Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’ is another standout as he travels from tormented to triumphant in the re-appropriated lyrics.
While audience members may not recognise all the numbers, this serves as no barrier to engagement; in fact the range of genres represented only adds to appreciation of the performer’s skill as he delivers “Moulan Rouge” musical poignancy alongside a “Toy Story” anthem and then pumping punkish number. But the show never seems comfortable in its soundtrack; in early sections, the rapid transition in styles is a little jarring at the expense of the fluency of an essential narrative that is appealing enough in itself.
“More than a Boy” packs a lot into its hour-long running time as it jumps around musical styles in support of its story. While a particularly profane later number, for example, is appreciated by the audience, it undos a lot of the momentum of the show’s story. Enhancing the experience however, is the live band that accompanies Oliver through the journey of the story’s emotions, working with lighting to set the scene aesthetically through, for example, a rolling high-seas journey.
With a solo show, there is nowhere for a performer to hide, a truth that Oliver embraces; he is the kind of performer who understands the power of simplicity, captivating the audience again and again with his marvellous voice in show of the magic of cabaret. And in his hands, the show is set to only go from strength to strength.