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sydney fringe : ‘make believe’ @ the sydney fringe supper club


Above: Now playing the Sydney Fringe Cabaret Club at the Castlereagh Boutique Hotel. Pianist Nathaniel Kong with singers Emily Turner and Ian Warwick. Featured image- Turner and Warwick recreate moments from the screen career of Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel.

There is nothing imaginary about the sheer talent currently gracing the stage at the swish  Sydney Fringe Cabaret Club. This show is all class,  and just one of many to be sampled at the opulent Castlereagh Boutique  Hotel during this year’s Sydney Fringe Festival.

‘Make Believe’ is a slick, well-prepared show for two vocalists and pianist. Soprano Emily Turner, baritone Ian Warwick and pianist Nathaniel Kong  fill the swanky venue with music from the silver screen. This thorough and thoroughly entertaining tribute gives a fun and  impressive nod to the voices and busy  careers of legends Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel.

There is something for everyone here in the recreation of fine 40s-50s movie-musical moments. The clear clever, nature of shows-to-screen  in constant supply from the movie musical making machines of MGM and Warner in  this wartime and post-war era  are just the ticket for escapism in our current times.

The song selection and placement in the programme works well. This trio of earnest performers wow us with hits and commentary from well-known shows including all-time and enduring favourites  Kiss Me Kate, Carousel, Showboat, The Desert Song and Calamity Jane.

Turner and Warwick make a fitting, fun and edgy 2020’s version of the dashing movie couple. There is accomplished singing and stage presentation from these well-trained and experienced performers. Their love of the era and the classic vocal hits emerging from Grayson and Keel’s careers are sung with infectious energy in a super smooth style.

Above;  Emily Turner and Ian Warwick.

These well-matched voices have unwaveringly keen and commanding tone, with exciting athleticism and flexibility. Hand held microphones and amplification in the venue is almost not needed for these huge star quality voices, but the pair do manage to work well with this set up.

There is hilarious banter between the two, and some moments of extended dialogue are acted out nicely from the well known musicals. Some cutting sparring and modern references to surving Covid, queer life and the life of singers in general gel the string of hits together.

The title track ‘Make Believe’ is from Showboat. It is just one of the duets with excellent blend, and shiny, I-got-love-goin-on sentiment. You can’t go wrong with music from Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. Other shimmering highlights are the Rogers and Hammerstein hit ‘If I loved You’ from Carousel and the beautiful  ‘Be My Love’ from The Toast of New Orleans (Nicholas Brodszky and Sammy Kahn).

Emily Turner sings with a powerful,well nuanced voice that devours the challenges from each show composer and lyricist team. Her femme-musicale swagger delights in numbers such as ‘I Hate Men’ from Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate. Ian Warwick’s stage presence and full, honeyed voice gives us great dramatic moments such as ‘Higher Than a Hawk’ from  Calamity Jane.

Both singers bring familar music and enthusiastically introduce us to  lesser know beauties from the focus screen pair’s career also. They perform with solid stagecraft skill and communicate with fitting, animated face. There is fine movement and use of the well as getting the pianist involved in some numbers, in good cabaret tradition.

The elegant venue with round tables, bar and program complete with QR code booklet link has all us modern guys and gals need to relax and focus for an hour on this gorgeous era of music.

Moments such us the snappy ‘Argument Medley’ and final compilation are priceless cabaret mash-ups of the swag of special music to emerging from the Grayson-Keel partnership.

The talented trio on stage champion the movie-musical machine from a time where love, the big screen, performance prowess and excellent music gave so many so much hope to conquer all.

‘Make Believe’ plays at the Castlereagh Boutique Hotel nightly at 8pm until and must finish Saturday September 3.




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