She’s on an ‘apology tour’, declares Lady Rizo at the opening of Red, White and Indigo.
Image: Lady Rizo via MICF.
She’s on an ‘apology tour’, declares Lady Rizo at the opening of Red, White and Indigo. Apologising for America. Like a bad boyfriend, her homeland is an embarrassment with which she has a love-hate relationship. Through edgy songs and chatter rich with personal stories and social commentary, a touch of burlesque, intentionally tarnished glamour and quite a few chuckles, this is a cabaret show full of New York attitude. The only problem is, it doesn’t belong in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
If Red, White and Indigo were part of the cabaret or Melbourne festivals, it would be easy to embrace this show from the get-go. Expecting lots of chuckles, if not big laughs, however, it took some time to appreciate it for what it is. By the end, the audience was wrapped around Lady Rizo’s little finger: the audience participation culminated in us shining our phone torches on the diva, before dancing at her feet, singing along as she belted out I Feel Love.
The show began in a darker, more mysterious place, with Lady Rizo singing a funk-jazz-rock version of The Star Spangled Banner. Her backdrop: a grungy take on the flag itself, which later became the revealing screen for her costume change into a second glittering gown. She has a powerful, slightly husky voice capable of holding notes for an eternity. A couple of times some big notes took a few attempts – which she carried off with her raw-meets-glamorous persona’s brassy confidence. She was backed by a tight three-piece on drums, guitar and bass.
Lady Rizo sang a couple of original songs, including a catchy, Kurt Weill-esque tune about Hollywood celebrity, The Ghost of the Chateau Marmont, several covers by the likes of Leonard Cohen and Portishead, and a few mash-ups. The stand-out was her slow, dramatic blend of the Cher/Nancy Sinatra classic Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) and D’Angelo’s Shit, Damn, Motherfucker, which she segued into after some commentary on gun violence in America. With a mix of seriousness, wit and charm, she also tackled racism, the undermining of women’s reproductive rights, anti-intellectualism and conservatism in general under President Trump, slipping from one to the next with a song.
She also revealed aspects of her own American life, most notably being among a handful of children chosen to go to Russia in the early 1990s to make a musical about peace with local kids. The way she tells it, this episode was somewhat bizarre; slamming vodka shots among the band, then getting the audience on board with a traditional Russian kissing game, made it truly, wonderfully bizarre.
With big platinum-blonde curls and a ton of sass, Lady Rizo is a compelling performer, and Red, White and Indigo is a well-paced, thoughtful, entertaining show. Expect New York-style cabaret rather comedy festival-level laughs and you’re in for a treat.
Red, White and Indigo
The Famous Spiegeltent, Melbourne, until 22 April
Melbourne International Comedy Festival