South Bank Piazza
September 17 – 18
In many ways the late-night cabaret slot can be a difficult festival gig, given the spirited energy needed to maintain the engagement of an often already ‘celebratory’ crowd. “Hughman”, however, is the perfect show to fulfil this brief at the Brisbane Festival. With music that never stops, it all is about the upbeat vibe from the outset of its spectacular Queensland premiere under the giant disco ball of the South Bank Piazza. As we bounce into each new number, there is increasingly “I love this song” exclamations about its setlist. Indeed, with co-creator (along with director Dylan Mahoney) Hugh Sheridan initially spinning beats from a mixing desk high at the back of the stage, the curation of disco-esque classics takes the audience to an Ibiza-like dance party celebration of everything, complete with a shirtless Sheridan.
From Wham and Prince to Sia, The Jacksons and a dance-along ‘Xanadu’, the feel-good music is all incredibly infectious in a boogie-wonderland way that has you wanting it to continue all night long. There is not a lot of substance per se, but as performers integrate into the audience and sections of the crowd are soon on their feet dancing, nobody seems to mind. It’s all about the vibe really and in that regard, “Hughman” is a perfect celebration of life, love and music, saxophone number and all.
Hopefully audience members know what was in store from the show’s promise of seeing Sheridan in a new light, otherwise there may me some disappointment as to his role in things. And it certainly would have been nice to have a couple more signature smooth vocal numbers from the performer, as when he does take to the microphone for ‘My Way’, his vocals are as polished as ever. And California Crooners fans are in for a treat as he shares one of the group’s original boppy numbers, ‘I Need You’.
Adding to the program’s diversity is a dynamic array of talented performers, Chase Vollenweider, Demi Jenkins, Winston Morrison, Nathaniel Hancock, Emma Pavich and Dion Bellow, who get the crowd buzzing thanks to their exhalating dance moves. From a high-voltage tap routine to Diana Ross to roller skate and hula hoop numbers, and even some fire twirling, it is all quite the spectacle of fun. And as performers frolic about in bohemian kaftans and alike by Camilla and rainbow flags, it’s difficult to no become caught up in the ecstasy of freedom that exists at the core of the show’s sentiment and celebration of what it means to be part of a big resiliently human family.
“Hughman” is a spirited, invigorating festival experience, guaranteed to make you feel good vibrations about the world. The kaleidoscopic mash-up of music, costume, colour and dance not only represents the very essence of festival culture, but takes on a new resonance as we celebrate being one of the few cities in the country in which the arts can currently continue. The dance party format guarantees a good time, making it the perfect way to finish off your night out, or maybe just get it started.