Review: Broken Romantics and Any Moment, Melbourne Cabaret Festival (VIC)

Charlene Li

Two memorable productions at this year's Melbourne Cabaret Festival.
Review: Broken Romantics and Any Moment, Melbourne Cabaret Festival (VIC)

Emma Dean's Broken Romantics: A Unicorn's Quest for Love. Photo credit: KD Photography.

Broken Romantics: A Unicorn's Quest for Love is a collection of original songs and quirky covers on love, heartbreak and self-acceptance from Australian songstress Emma Dean. Her intimate ensemble comprises Wayne Jennings on cello, Tony Dean and Katie Swan on backing vocals and instrumentals, with dance theatrics from Jamie Kendall.  

There's a sense of familiarity and camaraderie among the performers that facilitates an authenticity to Dean’s performance of these very personal songs, which range from melancholic, to quirky and theatrical, to uplifting and anthem-like. Pop songs such as ‘Wrecking Ball’ are hauntingly reimagined.

Broken Romantics stays true to the spirit of cabaret, with dialogue and audience interaction, each song introduced with a story about its personal significance and why it was selected, and Dean carefully strikes the balance between theatrics and authenticity. The end result is intimate, raw, yet highly entertaining. The lighting design is excellent, transforming the stage, with very minimal set design, into a burst of colour.

Also presented as part of Melbourne Cabaret Festival is Any Moment, the concept performance of a new musical from award-winning Australian composer Bradley McCaw (who also performs and accompanies in some of the pieces).

Any Moment is from the playbook of musicals such as Jason Robert Brown's Songs For a New World, which examine the triumphs and pitfalls of contemporary, everyday life with humour, poignance and soaring melodies.

The music and lyrics are of a glittering standard that deserves worldwide recognition, particularly in the more humorous pieces. A song about life in the suburbs styled after a rap piece had the audience in stitches.

Each of the performers are also outstanding vocalists, making this concept performance a tantalising promise of the musical it could become.

Broken Romantics: A Unicorn's Quest for Love
4 ½ stars ★★★★☆
Emma Dean and Ensemble
Performers: Tony Dean, Wayne Jennings, Katie Swan, Jamie Kendall
Chapel Off Chapel
21-22 June 2019

Any Moment
4 ½ stars ★★★★☆
Bradley McCaw and Ensemble
Performers: Vidya Makan, Natalie O'Donnell, Kerrie Anne Greenland, John O’Hara, Du Toit Bredenkamp, Bradley McCaw, Jessie Singleton, Harry Fenn, Imogen Spendlove and Anthony Craig
Musical Direction: Shanon Whitelock 
Chapel Off Chapel

25-26 June 2019

About the author

Charlene Li is an arts junkie with a few too many interests. She thinks the Australian arts scene is the world's best kept secret.