Friends with Benefits
Studio Theatre and Cafe
‘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.
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.