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Velvet

Diana Carroll

The Divine Discotheque Circus returns for another Sydney season at the Roslyn Packer Theatre.
Velvet

Marcia Hines in Velvet. Photograph supplied.

Velvet has been a huge success for producer Peter Rix and director Craig Ilott since it launched at the 2015 Adelaide Fringe Festival. The show has played seven seasons and over 300 performances nationally and internationally and still the disco fun goes on.

The program notes say ‘VELVET is a nightclub and a state of mind – a fantasy. Inspired by Studio 54, a club famous for its wild parties and hedonism but also ultimately for its culture of acceptance – blind to colour, creed, class, gender, size, and sexuality. VELVET is a celebration of that freedom.’ 

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It might well be a state of mind and a fantasy, but claims about a culture of acceptance at Studio 54 are highly debatable. The club boasted Andy Warhol and Liza Minnelli among its celebrity regulars and was famous for its entry policy that gave a whole new level of meaning to ‘door bitch’. 

Velvet's featherweight storyline focuses on the coming of age (and coming out) of a shy young man who finds personal and sexual liberation through disco. Tom Oliver is perfect in the role, even though the boy from the ‘burbs would never have been granted entry to Studio 54, looking nervous and dressed like a Mormon.

It’s a shame that the creators of the show didn’t do more to give Velvet a serious narrative thread. As it is, it appears that the story exists only to tie the songs together. A deeper storyline and a little more characterisation would give the audience the chance to actually care about the characters and their emotional journey.  Or do away with the pretense of a story and just have a series of cabaret party pieces.

And the party pieces are very good. ‘The incredible hula boy’ Craig Reid can twirl those hoops with the best of them and makes a marvelous human slinky. Aerialists Emma Goh and Stephen Williams are stylish and accomplished, performing individually and together. Their bondage routine was clearly an eye-opener for two young girls seated in the second row!  Acrobat Mirko Kockenberger does some impressive balancing acts and is an engaging performer.  Rechelle Mansour and Kaylah Attard were equally gorgeous as they sang and danced their way through almost every number in the show and multiple costume changes.  Musical Director Joe Accaria gives the show its strength and really is the unsung star of the show.

The disco music playlist is great fun and includes all the most popular tracks of the era. As one excited opening night attendee said after the show 'I loved it, that’s the music of my childhood.'  And that’s what Velvet is selling – 1970s nostalgia – that's what makes Marcia Hines the perfect choice as the disco queen with the big soul voice. 

Velvet is a feel-good night of disco fun but I’m not sure it really works in a conventional theatre.  Its spiritual home is still the informality of the Spiegeltent where the crowd can be noisier and the music can be louder.

3 stars out of 5

Velvet

Director: Craig Ilott
Executive Producer: Peter Rix
Musical Director: Joe Accaria
Choreographer: Lucas Newland
Starring:
Marcia Hines
Tom Oliver
Craig Reid
Joe Accaria
Emma Goh
Stephen Williams
Mirko Kockenberger
Rechelle Mansour
Kaylah Attard
Playing at the Roslyn Packer Theatre until 20 August 2017

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Dr Diana Carroll is a writer, speaker, and reviewer based in Sydney. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines including the SMH, the Oz, Woman's Day, and B&T. Writing about the arts is one of her great passions.

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