Stories, songs and scornful banter

Friends with Benefits

Studio Theatre and Cafe

March 28

‘If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends’. So sings ultimate spicy girl Natasha York and her cabaret co-divas in the opening number of “Friends with Benefits”. As its title suggests, however, this is a show about friendship with that little bit more. Joined by friends Natalie Mead, Chloe-Rose Taylor and Stephen Dorrington and accompanied by immensely-talented Musical Director Ben Murray, Melbourne-based songstress York examines if it better to be friends or have real feelings, through a bewitching mix of music, hot stuff dance moves and even some balloon tricks. Indeed, this is a show that depends on the audience; the audience is often the protagonist though frequent participation segments, including a quick quiz show bit pitting lucky-in-love spouse against lucky-in-love spouse. But ultimately, this is York’s show and her compelling voice and charismatic charm don’t let you forget it.

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Perhaps the most important consideration when selecting songs in cabaret is perhaps the lyric and, in this regard, the songs really do shine. “Friends with Benefits” gives chance to revisit some ‘90s classics of the Britney sort, stripped back to tell a different story than you might otherwise have realised and from Alanis to Rihanna, there really is something to satisfy every taste… and not just dirty ‘90s mashups but musical theatre staples and vintage flavours on party favourites and movie classics (Mead makes appearance as Marilyn for a sultry rendition of ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ for example). However, there are some fresh tunes too thanks to Dorrington’s pubaret performance (a fusion of pub rock and cabaret). Delivering funny, catchy and even touching original songs about being, amongst other things, a dancing man and driving a shit car, he’s dashing, delightful and definitely a talent to watch.

In a musical theatre world in which bigger is often seen to be better, it is sometimes refreshing to see quality intimate musical experiences and “Friends with Benefits” captures the essence of cabaret without slipping into cliché. Its segments ebb and flow, however, its atmosphere is full of fun and shared enjoyment of the stories, songs and scornful banter. And for a fabulous night out, what more can you really, really want…. #nostringsattached.

Wine time

These Things Take Wine (Natasha York)

Studio Theatre and Café

August 22 – 24

One of the best things about cabaret is its flexibility. A show can either embrace a narrative or not tell a tale at all. Some of the best cabaret productions are the ones that nod courteously at a concept, and then embellish unabashedly and Natasha York’s one woman show and ode to the dependable lady-petrol liquid resource, “When Things Take Wine” is a wonderful example of this.

Ably accompanied by Daniele Buatti on piano, York tells of her move to from Bris-city to Melbourne, where ladies lunch and people wear hats, taking audiences through her tales of misadventure, decisions made under the influence and relationships with musical theatre boys. The result is a show of light and shade, from frivolous flirtation to fleeting moments of melancholy and morning-after Maccas longings.

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Musically, the show delivers. There are song choices to appeal to every taste, including Amy WINEhouse (of course), Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson. In many instances, York presents her own take on these, such as a slowed-down ‘I’m Still Standing (after all this wine)’. And her powerhouse voice simply shines in more soulful numbers such as ‘Feeling Good’ and ‘Proud Mary’.

Morningside’s Studio Theatre is the perfect venue for the intimate wine time examination, allowing for supportive audience participation as complement to her self-deprecating revelations (“I’m an Aries, I like wine and I’m afraid of cats” she shares). York is a self-confessed wine enthusiast; the more wine she drinks the more enthusiastic she becomes. And “These Things Take Wine” is certainly an enthusiastic show, complete with puns, banjo busking, balloon animal tricks, power tools and even some spanking. It is a warm and funny cabaret experience that is delightfully madcap and guaranteed to leave you feeling pretty great.