Review: Songs for the Fallen, Auckland Live International Cabaret Season

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Sheridan Harbridge performs in Songs for the Fallen as part of the Auckland Live International Cabaret Season.
Sheridan Harbridge performs in Songs for the Fallen as part of the Auckland Live International Cabaret Season.

The Auckland Live International Cabaret Season kicked off with a wildly exuberant romp through the territory explored in Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge.

Set in Paris of the 1840s, Songs for the Fallen tells the tragic rags-to-riches story of Marie Duplessis - a French peasant girl who won a place in Parisian high society as the lover, mistress or sometimes wife of a dazzling array of aristocrats and artists that included Alexander Dumas the Younger and Franz Liszt.

Written and performed by Australian Sheridan Harbridge, the award-winning show celebrates the irrepressible spirit of a life devoted to champagne and pretty things but also manages to express the pathos of a woman who was used and abused by the men who sustained her decadent lifestyle.

In true cabaret style, the production is a riotous mash-up of the trashy and the refined with soaring almost operatic songs colliding with raunchy dance routines and a deeply romantic storyline that's constantly interspersed with wickedly funny asides about the need to make a buck.

With a powerful singing voice and whole-hearted performance, Harbridge establishes an intimate relationship with the audience and is well supported in the amusing vaudeville style skits with Simon Corfield and Garth Holcombe playing her ever-changing parade of lovers.

The anarchic musical score, by Basil Hogios, might be described as electronic baroque and the live keyboards conjured up a bewildering array of instruments and musical effects that were not always well served by a somewhat erratic sound mix.

The faded elegance of Town Hall Concert Chamber helped in evoking the ambience of the period setting and table seating with a makeshift bar makes for a highly entertaining night.

What: Songs for the Fallen
Where: Town Hall Concert Chamber to September 30

- NZ Herald

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