Baroness Bianka’s Bloodsongs

Hayes Theatre Co, September 21

Joanna Weinberg. Photo: supplied

Joanna Weinberg. Photo: supplied

Joanna Weinberg’s new cabaret show Baroness Bianka’s Bloodsongs takes a quirky idea about addiction and really runs with it.

She has created a character from a fictional Eastern European country, with a thick accent to match, who has had a yen for blood ever since her detested nanny met an unfortunate, squishy end.

She doesn’t drink it like your common-or-garden vampire, but she can sniff out someone’s blood group at hundred paces, likes to bathe in it and finds sex boring without it. She works as a nurse for obvious reasons. A black comedy with a blood-red heart, the show explores her life with this unusual addiction and her battle to overcome it.

Weinberg performs original songs alongside numbers like Tom Lehrer’s The Masochism Tango and Queen’s Killer Queen. She has a lovely voice and plays the accordion for most of the numbers, with an occasional sortie to keyboard and drums, while Mark Ginsburg plays soprano sax, guitar and, at one point, a knife and knife sharpener.

Though the melodies and lyrics of the first few numbers are catchy and clever, musically it becomes a bit samey and not many of the songs are terribly memorable. Weinberg could have made more of The Masochism Tango, for example, which she performs seated and in a similar manner to the other songs.

Weinberg is a talented comic performer, and the character she creates is vividly realised and engaging. However, the story didn’t hold my interest for that length of time (it runs an hour and a quarter).

Directed by Lisa Freshwater, the show unfolds at a similar pitch and in a similar vein throughout, then rather peters out at the end. It’s a fun idea but a bit more dramatic light and shade and some bigger laughs wouldn’t go astray.

Baroness Bianka’s Bloodsongs plays at the Hayes Theatre Co on Sunday September 28. Bookings: www.hayestheatre.com.au or 02 8065 7337

Advertisements

Ruthless! The Musical

Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre, June 20

The cast of Ruthless! Photo: Blueprint Studios

The cast of Ruthless! Photo: Blueprint Studios

Eight-year old Tina is done with childhood. She was “born to entertain” and it’s time to get serious. In fact, she’d kill to get to the top. So look out Louise Lerman who lands the lead role in the school musical.

Marvin Laird and Joel Paley’s 1992 off-Broadway show Ruthless! The Musical is a very funny send-up of showbiz, talent and the pursuit of fame.

Featuring an all-female cast of broadly comic characters, most of whom aren’t what they seem, it’s a lightweight, cartoon bright and exuberantly farcical show.

Full of theatrical in-jokes, you’ll get most out of it if you can spot the abundant film and stage references (Gypsy, All About Eve, The Bad Seed etc) but it’s a hoot even if you can’t.

Presented by new Sydney company The Theatre Division, Lisa Freshwater directs a superbly cast, well staged production with stylish set and costume design by Mason Browne.

With her agile, powerful voice and delicious sense of comedy, Katrina Retallick is sensational as Tina’s mother Judy, a perfect housewife unaware of the talent running in her veins who makes a stunning transformation in the second act.

Madison Russo and Katrina Retallick. Photo: Blueprint Studios

Madison Russo and Katrina Retallick. Photo: Blueprint Studios

Ten-year old Madison Russo – a pint-sized triple threat with a powerhouse voice – is scarily good as Tina (a role she shares with Jade Gillis) and Geraldine Turner rips it up as Tina’s grandmother, the acidic theatre critic Lita Encore who loves closing shows and hates musicals.

In fact, there are terrific performances from the entire cast, which also includes Margi de Ferranti who is excellent as the school teacher who directs the musical and a star-struck journalist from Modern Thespian, Meredith O’Reilly as agent Sylvia St Croix who is as hell-bent on Tina’s success as Tina herself, and Caitlin Berry as Louise and Broadway personal assistant Eve.

Ruthless! sure ain’t subtle or deep. Towards the end it starts to feel like an overextended sketch but it’s such fun that a good time is guaranteed.

Ruthless! The Musical runs at the Seymour Centre until July 12. Bookings: www.seymourcentre.com or 02 9351 7490

A version of this review ran in the Sunday Telegraph on June 29