IsoLation appreciation

The IsoLate Late Show – Episode 10 (The Little Red Company)

May 29


Proving that isolation’s more fun when you do it together, the little red company has, for the last 10 weeks, been banding together with other talented performers for an online live concert series to raise money for Queensland’s creative workforce who are facing perilous loss in the wake of COVID-19’s catastrophic hit to the arts industry. The concept concert, “The IsoLate Late Show”, is not only entirely philanthropic, but also immensely enjoyable for audiences watching its weekly Friday night live Facebook broadcast. And appropriately, its final episode sees both a set list of audience requests from the past 10 weeks and the show’s core artists making music in the same (socially distanced) space. Not only are they finally making music together in real life, but they are doing it on the stage at Brisbane’s beloved art-deco music venue the Tivoli theatre. And with tons of tinsel and a razzle dazzle jacket, the atmosphere is sparkling as they set towards an ultimate $100K fundraiser goal for the Actors’ and Entertainers’ Benevolent Fund QLD.

Amongst its reflection on the last ten weeks of shows from home, Episode 10 of “The IsoLate Late Show” enables its own highlights, especially thanks to its bigger space and increased performer numbers. The duets are what make our dreams come true, from Luke Kennedy and Lai Utouvou’s Hall and Oats to Tom Oliver and Irena Lysiuk’s ‘Kids’ and a feel-good ‘Time of My Life’ closer from Kennedy and the show’s host Naomi Price to remind us that nobody puts the arts in the corner.

Numbers also provide opportunity to give live band members their moments to shine. Tom Oliver’s epically-rock ‘My Sharona’ allows Jason McGregor to show some impressive guitar riffs and, helping Luke Kennedy doing what he does best in Farnham’s ‘Age of Reason’, Michael Manikus is a maestro on keys. Naomi Price, too, is on-point in show of her versatility, from a high-energy ‘River Deep Mountain High’ opener to a croony ‘Make You Feel Your Love’ gentle and sweet take back to her Adele cabaret show “Rumour Has It”.

There is eclecticism to the show’s set list of audience requests, curated together in the most magnificent of ways, taking audiences from Rachel Everett-Jones and Lai Utouvou’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’, full of pep courtesy of its quick paced vocals and trademark percussion, to Tom Oliver’s infectious disco energy, being finally allowed to do a Bee Gees number.

Songs are also strategically selected with on-point messages, appropriate for these uncertain times. Quarantine Queen Irena Lysiuk gives audiences another stunning Cher number with a beautifully-arranged ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’, while Rachel Everett-Jones offers reminder that it’s going to be bright and sunshiny on the other side of these dark and difficult days, with ‘I Can See Clearly Now’. The strings musicians of Camerata, Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, remind us of both our wonderful world and the wonderful art form that classical music can be with a moving arrangement of Satchmo’s signature song and, appropriately for the season’s finale, Luke Kennedy and Rachel Everett-Jones’ ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ makes for a spectacular high point.

After ten weeks of tireless effort assembling and delivering theatre to our lounge rooms, the cast and creatives of “The IsoLate Late Show” deserve only the most hyperbolic of acclamation for reminding audiences of both Brisbane’s talent and an industry that is determined to still stand. And for that, we should be we should be dancing in appreciative celebration indeed (#takeitfromTom).

Little red relief’s roll out

The IsoLate Late Show – Episode 4 (The Little Red Company)

April 17


Initially my plan was to just review the first three episodes of “The IsoLate Late Show”, but then the little red company took things to another level, rolling out episode four from the show’s new La Boite Theatre home, still sans audience obviously, but with some bang-on production values, especially considering the challenges of the current situation.


Immediately, the night’s dancing theme is evident with a ‘Shut Up and Dance’ duet from Luke Kennedy and Naomi Price, with guitar hero Jason McGregor’s accompaniment making the power pop song all the more irresistible for a sing-a-long. And, in keeping with the theme, the audience is also treated to a dance number from The Dream Dance Company, to remind us of the self-reward of aesthetic appreciation in disposition development, such is the little red company’s commitment to showcasing a wide range of talented creatives in whose hands our artistic future lies.


Lai Utavout continues to set the tone with a visual extravaganza to disco anthem ‘Young Hearts Run Free’, complete with remote musical accompaniment, however, the show is, as always, far from one-note. Irena Lysiuk again gives us some light and shade in a stripped-back Jonas Brothers number and Naomi Price chanteuses us through Norah Jones’ jazzy ‘Turn Me On’, showcasing her vocal versatility and eclecticism, while McGregor and Bobbie Lee Stamper join in guitar collaboration to share a flawless take of the gorgeous Beatles classic ‘Blackbird’, bring back memories of Price’s La Boite show “Lady Beatle”.


Stamper also continues the dancing theme with some smooth Springsteen sounds, live from Sydney. Everyone’s favourite elf (courtesy of “Christmas Actually”), Tom Oliver gives us harder rock in a comfortable robe and slippers with a bitter but groovy ‘Lonely Boy’, before joining with Kennedy for a standout, soaring ‘As The Days Go By’ duet of towering vocals, because Braithwaite makes everything alright.  Indeed, it’s a show of duets this week with Kennedy and Price also giving a spectacular ‘Shallow’ of moving melody in accompaniment of the powerful and poignant pop ballad’s stunning musical contrasts. Things never drift too far from the dance theme though with a socially (distancing) responsible version of ‘Dancing in the Street’ teasing us into a lycra and leg-warmer ‘Physical’ from Lysiuk and Price before a ‘Toxic’ extravaganza home school of rock showcase sees even members of Queensland Chamber Orchestra, Camerata bringing us Britney as we’ve never before seen.


The arts sector being unsupported by the government stimulus package means an uncertain future for creatives and the industry itself for the foreseeable future. Tuning in to “The IsoLate Late Show” and donating to the Actors’ and Entertainers’ Benevolent Fund QLD allows audience members to show this suffering industry that though they have been ignored, they are not forgotten. Not only do we get to share in celebration of the evolution of this show over such as short amount of time, but we are treated to a weekly reminder that as the days go by we do get a bit closer, even if we are still socially distanced apart.

little red relief

The IsoLate Late Show (The Little Red Company)

March 20

For the performing arts sector, the enormity of the coronavirus is unparalleled. Yet in response to the devastation, members of the creative community who should be on stage, found a way to do exactly that last Friday night, #kindasorta, in a star-studded cabaret show. It took just 48 hours of these unprecedented and unpredictable times for the little red company to put together a banger of an online show live from a living room. With an audience of over 45 000 viewers, the very first episode of “The IsoLate Late Show” raised over $58,000 for the Actors and Entertainers Benevolent Fund… an effort very deserving of all-around air-fives.


Leading the charge to keep the community together, our quick-witted emcee of sorts Naomi Price bursts out with ‘Rolling in the Deep’. Adele is clearly in Price’s comfort zone, as those who have seen her “Rumour Has It” show know, with the English singer-songwriter’s work featuring throughout, even within memorable mashup with the Spice Girls. There is hint, also to Price’s “Lady Beatle” cabaret show, which enjoyed a smash return season at La Boite Theatre last year, when members of Queensland Chamber Orchestra, Camerata, slow things down with a tribute to ‘all the lonely people’ in The Fab Four’s ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ultimately proving that the sweetest songs do not always need vocal accompaniment.

The show offers lots of opportunities to sing, dance (not too close) and bop along to feel good songs like ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ and ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ from ‘old mate’ Luke Kennedy. His ‘The Best’ is far from the footy anthem many may know; layered with lingering light touches, it is infused with sincerity in support of its essentially positive message. However, as those who have had privilege of seeing his “From Johnny to Jack” cabaret show are aware, no Luke Kennedy set is complete without some Farnsie, and with some sensational string accompaniment courtesy of Camerata’s musicians, his soulful ‘Help’ both satisfies this expectation and whets the appetite for an encore of sorts share of the anthemic “The Voice”, which, as always, showcases his phenomenal, powerhouse vocals.


The who’s who of Brisbane cabaret performers continues with Tom Oliver, who mixes things up with a toilet-paper worthy performance that takes us from Bee Gee’s high-note hand washing reminder to country and western, and even reggae realisations in response to audience requests, before summing up the show’s sentiment in ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’. Things slow down with Lai Utovou and Rachel Everett-Jones‘ share of Simon & Garfunkel’s sensitive signature song, ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ in humble reminder that comfort for those in need is closer than they might think.


Lai Utovou himself shares a smooth sway-along BB King song and, in her Little Red Company debut, Irena Lysiuk showcases her velvety voice as she gives the audience a laid back but still vulnerable take of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’, leading to singalong of its iconic testament to turbulent times of thunder. It is one of many wonderful moments of appreciated connection in a world where isolating is so foreign. Indeed, the new concept shows how even from your front room, audience involvement can be achieved, through call and response or even just through the online stream of comments.

For members of a crippled industry to come together in such a hopeful fashion is certainly a testament to their spirit. And, not only this, but they are planning to do it all over again this Friday March 27th. Hear them and help them via live stream on the company’s Facebook page, if you have ever enjoyed a Little Red Company show or performance of one of these artists, or even just a show in general. In the meantime you can continue to enjoy the full first show, knowing that donations are still welcome at Every dollar raised goes directly to creative workers who desperately need the relief of financial assistance at this time, especially freelancers, sole traders and casual employees.

More Megan

Megan Hilty in Concert

QPAC, Concert Hall

June 20


Megan Hilty is a musical theatre person. She reminds the audience of this early on in her return to QPAC, this time in concert with Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra. Those familiar with the Tony Award-nominated songstress, however, need little reminder; the Broadway star rose to prominence with roles in musicals including “9 to 5: The Musical” and, before that, ‘a little show’ called “Wicked”. The big musical theatre set features some of her favourite songs as well as those from the shows she has done, punctuated by anecdotes about her experiences, including her four years doing “Wicked” and step-up to the role of Glinda the Good Witch the most powerful sorceress in L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz, at times alongside Idina Menzel as Elphaba. Her peppy ‘Popular’ is appropriately bubbly, but also a wonderful showcase for her comedic as well as singing talent, and it goes down a treat with the eager audience alongside a stirringly gorgeous, emotional ‘For Good’.

Hilty’s In Concert experience also features some non-Broadway songs, including songs from her debut solo album mix of original numbers and covers, “It Happens All the Time”. The paired back ‘Learning to Live Without You’ offers quiet contemplation with sparing piano accompaniment, however, Hilty is at her best when belting out numbers like the scorching, powerful set opener ‘They Just Keep Moving the Line’, from the musical-drama television show “Smash” about the creation of a fictitious new musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe, in which she starred as tough Broadway veteran Ivy Lynn. Other “Smash” songs make appearance also in celebration of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s clever creations, including ‘Second Hand White Baby Grand’ based on a true story about Marilyn Monroe’s relationship with her mother, which also allows for showcase of some wonderful string sounds from Camerata.

The Chamber Orchestra is outstanding throughout the show, in light-touch numbers like ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ and rousing big-bandish songs like ‘Get Happy’ alike. Indeed, the setlist not only suits Hilty’s versatility but also showcases the orchestra, from the early brass of an upbeat ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’ to the wonderfully melodic tour through snippets of a range of familiar songs from “Phantom of the Opera”, “The Sound of Music” et al, when Hilty asks to be given chance to sing melody.

Megan Hilty is a generous performer, not just in her talk of the performers with whom she has shared the stage, but in acknowledgement of everyone involved in making the show happen. She is genuine, funny and real, authentically taking audience members along with her through a range of emotions to a final number that is moving as much for its backstory as its musical realisation.

“Megan Hilty in Concert” serves as a reminder that ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ that unfortunately at 80-minutes duration seems to be over all too soon. While we might be left wanting one or two songs more, the end of show ovation indicates that the audience is just as satisfied as when the star received a rock star reception in her first Brisbane show three years ago. Clearly, opera camp’s loss is most definitely the musical theatre world’s gain.

Exquisite Elixir

Gratitude and Grief (Brisbane Festival and Griffith University)

QPAC, Concert Hall

September 9


“Gratitude and Grief” is not only the name of the newly released album in which Katie Noonan and Elixir explore every nuance of Michael Leunig’s poetry, but, for fortunate Brisbane Festival audiences, is also the title of the creative collaboration’s special first-weekend show. The fusion of music, poetry and art from multi-platinum-selling and five-time ARIA Award-winning singer/songwriter Katie Noonan, Australia’s ‘poet laureate’ Michael Leunig, Noonan’s ARIA Award-winning jazz trio Elixir (featuring Zac Hurren and Stephen Magnusson) and Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra (under the baton of Iain Grandage) offers audience members a Sunday slow-down and sense of calm from its first string and woodwind sounds.

The focus, however, is immediately Noonan’s stunning, ethereal-as-always voice. That is until cartooner Michael Leunig joins the group on stage. Leunig, who has collaborated over four years with Elixir to reinterpret ten of his poems in song, speaks the poems live between the songs being played while he draws beautiful accompaniments to each piece live onstage in his trademark black and white, quivering line style. The trademark simple yet evocative images suit both the sentiment and the gentle character of the show, which represents realisation of Noonan’s ambition in starting Elixir, to explore Australian poetry and find a place for quieter acoustic music. ‘Gratitude and Grief’ for example, see the accompaniment of a profound image of parent cradling a child in their arms, while barbed wire surrounds and a fighter plane flies overhead, in accompaniment to words such as ‘in the cradle of his mother’s arms a baby lies warm and sheltered from the time when they will come apart’.


The titular song also serves as standout though the beautiful Camerata string sounds, followed then by the simple message of ‘Peace is my Drug’, transporting the audience to a place of pleasant thematic contemplation. Although there is an intimacy to the entire program, after interval sees some humour too, with the quirky song ‘Magpie’ its appeal to the bird, “don’t put a hole in me” and the infectious generous sentiment of ‘Smile’.

Every of the concert’s numbers showcases Noonan’s soaring vocals and superb range, however, the most memorable come at the afternoon’s end in Elixir’s intimate and soulful arrangement on ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and an even more tender and angelic ‘Rainbow Connection’ (because love is love). And Camerata Conductor Iain Grandage’s ‘Let it Ring’ and ‘The Path to Your Door’, likewise, fill the Concert Hall with outstanding musicianship, with evocative bird-like sounds and percussion, so that desire becomes only for the show’s exquisite experience to linger a little more.


While festival shows so often take audiences on flights of fantasy, rarely do their worlds of whimsy offer opportunity for reflective pause amongst the painting-the-town-pink frenzy that Brisfest brings us each Spring…. that is the luxurious joy of “Gratitude and Grief”.

Love songs reclaimed


Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

May 19


The number 13 may have unlucky connotations for some, but for Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, it offers only excellence as 13 of its musicians begin “Coupling” with string sounds of what is revealed to be ‘Believe’ from the messiah herself, Cher. The show/queer love mix tape which features at the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of the 2018 Melt Festival of Queer Arts and Culture, is a musical collaboration of the most entertaining sort as it reclaims great love duets of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s for same sex couples.

Thanks to Trevor Jones’ impressive arrangements, the show offers exciting new takes on old favourites. With such an extensive repertoire from which to draw, the playlist covers a range of emotions and various stages of relationships, from Kylie and Jason’s much-loved number-one ‘Especially for You’ and Elton John and Kiki Dee’s Mowtownish ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ to Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond’s ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ lament of heartbroken lovers who have drifted apart and Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin’s ‘Separate Lives’. Ultimately, however, there is a huge rejoice in love at the organising centre of both its songbook and life’s experience alike.


Not all songs are the perhaps expected sweet ditties or yearning ballads. In amongst the smooth grooves and sexy beats, is a rousing ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, theme song to the greatest of guilty secret favourite films “Dirty Dancing”.  And special guest vocalists Sean Andrews, David Ouch, Luke Hodgson, Greg Moore, Monique Dawes, Emily Gilhome, Jessica Mahony and Ellen Reed all do much to make each number distinctive from its source material, beyond just their reappropriation as same sex couple duets. David Ouch makes ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves’ particularly provocative, and entertaining, and Greg Moore gives audiences an early highlight courtesy of a raunchy ‘Islands in the Stream’. There is comedy too, for example in an epic love duet sing off melody featuring, amongst others, a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ vs “Home and Away” theme battle.

As is always the case with Camerata, the music is both beautiful and flawless. Striking string sounds soar songs like ‘Don’t You Want Me’ and ‘Leather and Lace’. Indeed, one of the most marvellous things about Jones’ arrangements is the opportunity they provide for the Camerata musicians to display their skills, not just in complement to the vocalists, but in showcase instrumental sections. Vocal performances are strong from the start. Ellen Reed is a particular standout throughout, in songs from ‘Suddenly’ to ‘You’re the One that I Want’. And in unite, the eight vocalists work wonderfully together in reminder that love can withstand the struggles of a relationship and make it stronger ‘Up Where We Belong’.

“Coupling” is a celebration of so many things: songs, music, love and vocal talent. In its journey through showcase of all of these aspects, it may take audience members to some unexpected places, such as the “Family Ties” theme song, but this just makes for an all-the-more-fun ride. With clap and sing-along opportunities galore, there is certainly a mood of celebration, with smitten audiences clearly wanting for more at the end of its 70-minute duration. “Coupling” may be like a daggy mix tape, but it is compilation crafted with nothing but love, and it serves as a real highlight of this year’s Melt festival. By simultaneously celebrating music nostalgia and giving the associated sentimentality new scope, it speaks musically and lyrically to audience members of all persuasions and preferences, musical or otherwise, making everyone believe in life not only after, but before and during love.