My Funny Valentine (Josh Daveta and The Sequins)
Metro Arts, New Benner Theatre
The day that “My Funny Valentine” was due to open as part of Metro Arts’ Season of Surprises, southern Queensland went into a three-day lockdown. As devastating as its reschedule was, the show’s reappearance as part of Queensland Cabaret Festival’s Cabaret Long Weekend represents the perfect opportunity to shake off the short (for some) week that was.
Taylor Swift’s dance-pop song ‘Shake It Off’ appears as part of the setlist, however, not as the uptempo tune we might expect, such is the show’s challenge to present pop songs as jazz standards (think of it as old radio meeting Spotify). After a flash, bam, alakazam opener welcoming us into the cosy living room staging of the New Benner Theatre, Josh Daveta outlines the show’s premise and what follows is indeed a vintage experience through the lens of the pop music world of modern day Mariah Carey and Katie Perry et al magnum opuses. And thanks to Daveta’s jazz stylings and the smooth musicianship of the Kendall Layt, Jordan Garrot and Gracie Mack, we are delighted with the rhythmic surprises that ensure.
Wonderfully, band members are all given moments to shine such as pianist Gracie Mack’s magnificent introduction to ‘Fly Me to the Moon’, which segues into a buoyant Beyoncé number. And while Daveta delivers down to the “Single Ladies” hands-up oh, oh, oh choreography, the jazzy slow-down of its usually rushed lines, layers the lyrics with new meaning.
Things are paired back also in a slow and melodic ‘Oops! I Did It Again’ and Daveta’s impressive vocal range is particularly displayed in a transformed, but still rousing ‘Bad Romance’. Indeed, as the lights dim down, the number builds beautifully from tentative outset to a confident crescendo declaration that leaves no question as to the talent on display.
It may take until its encore to hear the show’s title song, however, along the way to this, there are many highlights, including a gospel-like play with tempo in Billy Eilish’s taunting electropop hit ‘bad guy’. And like so many sentimental torch song greats, heartbreak features within its themes, however, with a twist, as a swinging Ariana Grande’s ‘thank u, next’ rolls out into a joyous audience call and response segment.
Daveta is a charming, genuine and wittily-funny performer, which makes experience of “My Funny Valentine” an absolute blast. Hopefully, we will see the show in some form again soon. In the meantime, Josh Daveta and the Sequins are back for “Christmas is here, Again?” at the Old Museum for one night only in December.