Disco delights

Velvet Rewired

Wynnum Fringe Garden – George Clayton Park, Raine & Horne Wynnum Spiegeltent

November 16 – December 4

There was much conversation from audience members while in line for entry to the 8pm opening night show of “Velvet Rewired”. It was coming, largely, from those who had just seen the 6pm performance, raving to us about how wonderful it was. They needed to be spruiking, however, to those yet to purchase tickets, because this is fabulous entertainment that everyone should experience before it heads south for a season at the Sydney Opera House. The new, reinvented “Velvet Rewired” is the showcase event of the Wynnum Fringe Festival, now is its third year. Its home of the Raine & Horne Wynnum Spiegeltent within the Wynnum Fringe Garden of George Clayton Park on the shores of Moreton Bay, allows audience members to get up-close and personal with its performers, including commanding headliner The Diva, Marcia Hines.

As Hines makes her way out into the audience at one point, it is clear that love for the iconic national treasure is still strong. The Australian Queen of Pop’s voice is as powerful as ever, but still richly warm, and is smoothly complemented in duet with Tom Sharah as Country Mike in ‘You to Me Are Everything’. It is, however, her 1977 hit ‘You’ that really pinnacles the show. And, joined, as she is by a cast of internationally acclaimed circus performers and dancers, the highlights are plenty in this fusion of flawless glamour, glitz and jaw-dropping feats. Multi-skilled circus artist Beau Sargent stuns with aerialist work high about the stage. Indeed, as he hangs from an aerial hoop from just his neck, audible gasps replace the mouth agape awe of onlookers. Harley Timmerman’s too, provides a memorable aerial accompaniment to a multi-faceted ‘It’s Raining Men’ number’.

As with so many numbers, there is so much going on with James Browne’s set and costume design and Amy Campbell’s choreography, that our eyes are spoiled for choice upon where to settle. When ‘greatest dancer’ Craig Reid, aka The Incredible Hula boy storms the stage, our attention is commanded to the one spot. The multiple Guinness World Record holder, is clearly the King of the Rings as he simultaneously hulas hoops on multiple limbs and even while ascending into the air. The Skating Willers, Pierre and Stef too, have difficulty keeping their feet wheels on the ground with a daring number, especially for those seated in its front row danger zone.

As with previous “Velvet” undertakings, while seats close its thrust stage allow for intimate appreciation of the precision, strength and balance of circus performers, those located further back in the venue are rewarded with appreciation of the full spectacle of the show’s dynamism. Inspired by Studio 54, “Velvet Rewired” is full of exciting colour and moment in celebration of freedom, with Matthew Marshall’s vibrant disco lighting design adding to the excitement in its precise execution.

Under The DJ’s (music director Joe Accaria) watchful eye, Siren dancers Sasha Lee Saunders and Jacinta Giliano ensure that energy never wanes as the setlist takes us through over 15 of-era classics, including ‘Disco Inferno’ and ‘Boogie Wonderland’, though not always as we might remember them. In balance to the exuberant sparkle, there are even some more avant-garde moments and more subdued numbers as classic disco era songs are considered anew.

Like its previous incantations “Velvet Rewired” is a fusion of discotheque, nightclub, burlesque and carnival. The Australian-made global smash hit cabaret presents the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas along with the death-defying world of Cirque du Soleil, which results in sheer entertainment of the most exhilarating sort. So break out the sequins and get yourself down to see it at the Wynnum Fringe Speigeltent as soon as possible so you can then be the one urging others along to its disco delights.

Worth the wait

Waiting for John (the little red company)

Wynnum Opera House

November 15

“Waiting for John”, it’s a very clever title for the little red company’s show at the inaugural Wynnum Fringe Festival, even more so given the location of its debut performance at the former Wynnum Baptist Church, aka the weekend’s Wynnum Opera House. The show, which unites three apostles of Australian music – Mat Verevis, Mark Sholtez and Luke Kennedy, sees the trio performing original music and songs by famous Johns, including songs we all know but maybe have forgotten.

It is not long before the show’s concept is highlighted courtesy of a John Lennon classic. As the John repertoire expands through John Legend and alike we are also (partly due to an audience request segment) given opportunity to clap, click and sing along to all sorts of forgotten classics such as ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’, ‘Cherry Bomb’, ‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘Ring of Fire’ and a brilliant ‘Bennie and the Jets’ showcase of Verevis’ vocals and keyboard skills alike. And Kennedy also leads an energetic ‘Chain Reaction’ feel-good call back to his hugely-entertaining King of Pop tribute show “From Johnny to Jack”.

In compliment to this, we also hear some original songs from all three performers for the first time. Kennedy’s ‘Calling Me Home’ is a relaxing reflection on regret with slow percussions emphasising its easy-like-Sunday-evening listening appeal. Similarly, a sample from Verevis’ new EP showcases his smooth vocals and sweet falsetto. And Mark Sholtez’s stripped-back ‘Mockingbird’ is full of emotional conviction.

Perhaps a surprise highlight comes from the show’s final number, which sees Kennedy share an enticing take on Olivia Newton John’s timeless love song ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’, full of harmony in its heartbreak. While it is over all too quickly, it is a lovely way to end a show so full of nuance and overwhelming talent from a boy band unlike any you have probably seen before. Indeed, the intimate evening not only brings together its accomplished performers for a concert of biblical proportions, but it gives glimpses into the process of communication that song writing enables, which adds a little bit extra to its appeal.

Random acts of fineness

Dionysus (Tom Oliver Productions)

Wynnum Opera House

November 14

“It will random cabaret acts and probably a bit naughty”….It turns out that my pre-emptive summary to Saturday night’s +1 was an entirely appropriate summary of what was in store for us in worship of the god of wine, theatre and ritual madness at Wynnum Fringe Festival’s “Dionysus”. For a start, three of its early scenes feature a giant fridge box. To finish, there is an uplifting (#literally) “Dirty Dancing” routine unlike anything you are likely to have seen before, especially in its ultimate deflation. In between, is a whole lot of weird and wonderful stuff and the fact that it is being presented in the festival’s newly-claimed Wynnum Opera House just makes the irreverence of its content even more deliciously ironic.

Brainchild of Festival founder Tom Oliver, Brisbane’s own variety show is certainly a night of eclectic entertainment, featuring, on this occasion, Monty Pythonsque euphemistic word play in a phallic-themed duologue (Alan & Alan), performance poetry (Maddi Römcke) and two guys in a box (Andrew Cory and Leon Cain) on a very normal day of contemporary dystopian contemplation.

Hosted by Las Vegas regular Mario Queen of the Circus, the show features some of Brisbane’s finest cabaret performers from a range of creative backgrounds. World’s greatest Queen fan Mario is a beguiling emcee who sets the standard from the outset in share of his finely tuned 3-ball juggling and lip-sync routine to ‘Another One Bites The Dust’. He not only projects a rock show energy to match the number’s soundtrack, but his jokey through-show banter confirms that his expertise is in comedy as much as circus.

Melon the Human (Thomas Stewart) bookends this opening act nicely as he continues the circus theme through to the show’s conclusion with his awkward object manipulation and unique object juggling. While some acts continue on a little longer than is needed in that recent “Saturday Night Live” sort of way, the show’s all-sorts character means that it is not too long before another act is taking the stage.

Folk singer/songwriter Chanel Lucas’s musical numbers include some beautiful originals, showcasing her pure and gentle vocals in a way that makes us stop and recalibrate with the world. Her share of Amos Lee’s ‘Black River’ lamentation becomes an audience singalong, especially its verse about sweet whiskey taking cares away. It’s fitting considering that the show’s namesake is the god of all things wine, but it also symbolises the general merriment of its sold-out audience of festival goers, shared in their experience of a great night out.

While the spectacle of circus acts is impressive, this show is about more than this with up-to-date political references carefully included here and there adding an extra layer to its adults-only appeal. Combined, it all adds up to one very entertaining non-traditional experience, perfectly suited to this inaugural fringe festival.