Hayes Theatre Co, June 22
Hilary Cole is one of the brightest new stars in Sydney musical theatre. After stepping confidently into the limelight in Squabbalogic’s much admired productions of Carrie and The Drowsy Chaperone, she now takes on her first cabaret show as part of the Hayes Theatre Co Cabaret Season.
Titled O.C.Diva, it’s an interesting, brave little show full of smart song choices, some clever reworking of lyrics and terrific musical arrangements (courtesy of her musical director and accompanist Stephen Kreamer) in which she charts her obsessive compulsive behaviour.
She still has to master the art of delivering her patter as if chatting to the audience rather than reiterating a script (occasionally delivered here at breakneck speed), and she could also work on developing a warmer rapport with the audience (she frequently seems to internalise rather than reach out) but it’s an impressive debut. And she is certainly singing beautifully in that lovely pure voice of hers.
Looking gorgeous in a figure-hugging gown, Cole swans onto stage as if she is an ego-mad diva who treats her pianist (whatever his name is) like shite. It’s a tongue-in-cheek set-up for her opening number “You and Me (But Mostly Me)” from The Book of Mormon, with amusing, rewritten lyrics, but presenting herself this way, even in jest, doesn’t come across as the warmest way to start a show. A little more twinkle in the eye perhaps?
However, once she starts talking about her obsessions – opening a different shaped bottle of water every time she wants a drink, Lord of the Rings, Bernadette Peters and other strange behavioural tics – she gradually draws you in with her honesty and the vulnerability she reveals.
There’s a wonderful section in which she solves a Rubik’s Cube while singing a shimmering medley of Sondheim songs: “Colour and Light” from Sunday in the Park with George, “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” from Company and “Losing My Mind” from Follies.
She also sings “Being Alive” from Company, “No One is Alone” from Into the Woods and “Bill” from Showboat but it’s not all show tunes by any means. Other numbers include Blondie’s “One Way or Another” (with a touch of Phantom) for her story about stalking Peters and a mash-up of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”.
Cole is a real talent. As she settles into the cabaret genre, her confidence is bound to grow and this show, which already has much to recommend it, will grow too. Well worth a look.
Hilary Cole in O.C.Diva has one more performance at the Hayes Theatre Co on Sunday June 29 at 8.30pm. Bookings: http://www.hayestheatre.com.au