Celebrating sisters

Women in Voice 2018 (Women in Voice)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

October 18 – 20

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 In its second year in the Brisbane Powerhouse’s Powerhouse Theatre space, “Women in Voice” has clearly drawn a capacity crowd of devotees to the female eisteddfod, to use the institution’s label according to the evening’s emcee, Dutch international music therapist Jan van de Stool (Queenie van de Zandt). Feminism is not the show’s main agenda, although, in keeping with the essence of the long-standing franchise it does make appearance during the evening, which sees sets from its line-up of performances with mutual backing-vocals support. Newcomer Hannah Grondin’s Ted-talkish political contextualisation doesn’t take us towards a Helen Reddy roar, but rather an evocative ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ call for hope and determination for something better. The number not only serves as an early highlight, but it works with her beautiful ‘Songbird’ and spunky and soulful ‘Mamma Knows Best’, to showcase her passion and incredible range as a performer.

Just as we are fired up by Grondin’s fierce rip through the crazy-high vocals of the Jessie J anthem, however, it is interval. Indeed, the curation of numbers and sets could perhaps have better managed to build the show’s momentum and audience engagement. This includes emcee comic interludes; there is a fine line between funny and filler and Queenie van de Zandt doesn’t always find it in Act One, drawing an ultimately long show out further with unnecessary en-masse audience participation, even it is does provide a thematic arc to the later show elements. Indeed, things are slow to start musically too, with eclectic song choices from Leah Cotterell starting performer sets with her soulful examination of the psychology of dreams with the Beatles’ tender The White Album lullaby ‘Goodnight’ and A Perfect Circle’s heavy, metaphorically political ‘Pet’. Still, as always, her numbers are an excellent showcase of her powerful, elastic and bluesily-authoritative voice.

Clearly all the performers are talented and love what they do. Anje West’s ‘Lovely Day’ presents a voice in which to bask and rising jazz start Adelina Marinez brings both a comforting warmth and a playful energy to her numbers. Sets ebb and flow in a journey to all range of unexpected places and there is an appealing eccentricity to The Kransky Sisters‘ Christine Johnston’s appearance on stage costumed as a car seat, to show and tell us about the personalities of her family’s automobile history in between share of eclectic but cleverly appropriated numbers like Gary Numan’s ‘Car’ and Barbara Streisand’s ‘Somewhere’. And when her fellow performers join her on stage for ‘Don’t Stop Me Know’, it’s not just her quirky yodelesque vocal style that makes the number memorable.

When the ladies join together in a final ‘You to Me Are Everything’ their harmonies and quite lovely and suit the appealing celebratory atmosphere the epitomises every “Women in Voice” experience. Queenie van de Zandt is very funny in Act Two, especially in ad lib and the band members are all excellent in the show’s range of musical styles, from upbeat rock to smooth Brazilian sounds. The 2018 show not only includes the usual mix of styles and genres, with some interesting arrangements from Musical Director Jamie Clark, but a cross-generational showcase of talent, particularly that of standout star-on-the-rise Hannah Grondin. As such, it still represents a great night out, especially for long-term followers of the franchise, because there is no better time in history to be celebrating sisters than in 2018.

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