Sheridan stories and songs

Hugh Sheridan Live

South Bank Piazza

September 3

“Hugh Sheridan Live”… it does what it says on the tin really, but while the Brisbane Festival opener does feature the Australian television star and crooner live on stage with a full band, it’s aptness is more about its content, which features Sheridan sharing his story in meaningful jazz and swing songs, intertwined with heartfelt storytelling of his life and career journey to-date.

Those who have experienced the infectious cabaret stylings of the California Crooners Club of Sheridan’s previous Brisfest appearances, know of his charm in working a crowd so are probably not surprised to see him entering the Southbank piazza space from within, in share of Taylor Swift’s ‘Blank Space’ suavely decked out in a dapper suit. His debonair attire suits the shows early segments which see him fronting a full band of accomplished musicians in share of some lush jazzy sounds. And it is wonderful to see band members showcased in their own right within numbers, such as the a big and brassy slide trombone solo in ‘This Could Be The Start Of Something Big’ and an infectious piano segment in ‘Give Me The Simple Life’.

From the commanding swagger of Sheridan’s visits into the cabaret seated audience, the show progresses with a frank and honest vulnerability. The tone shift initially comes courtesy of his touching reflection of his relationship with his cherished father Denis, from whom, he tells us, he got his love of jazz. And just days out from Father’s Day his share of a song last sung at his father’s funeral, brings with it all sorts of feels for those who have suffered a similar loss. Indeed, slower and more graceful tunes are all beautifully interpreted in sometimes soul-stirring ways, including Bobby Darin’s ‘The Curtain Falls’ closing tribute.

Even when about the brutality of the performing arts, Sheridan’s recollections are profoundly introspective, especially around the controversy that arose from him being cast to play the lead role in the 2021 Sydney Festival production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, which leads into his on-stage transformation into the genderqueer East German singer for delivery of two of the rock musical’s numbers. When ‘Wig in a Box’ morphs from mournful ballad into potent punk anthem, its rambunctious is infections in its energy. And it makes the rousing ‘My Way’ that follows even more uplifting in its messages of reflective wisdom, resilience, belief in oneself and appreciation of life’s journey.

As a sub-in since the festival’s program launch, “Hugh Sheridan Live” had limited rehearsal, meaning that things are a little loose, but in a good way the suits the fun of the festival scene. And while transitions may, understandably, lack the polish of a more prepared show, the cabaret’s songs are delivered as if Sheridan has truly lived every word of them. And there is no denying the quality of his vocal prowess, across a range of musical genres. His interpretations of jazz standards are smooth, yet also bring with them a charismatic vitality and, as he shows in Tony Bennett’s ‘Who Can I Turn To’, he can hold a crisp high note as well as ever. With natural charm and engaging charisma, Sheridan gives us a cabaret show that is authentic and moving, but also ultimately joyous, meaning that we can only wait with anticipation of what is to come with his later festival Queensland Premiere of “Hughman”, an entertaining mash-up of music, colour, and costume set to show him in a new light.