Velvet

A glitzy extravaganza that willl have the whole crowd dancing in their seats.
Velvet

Velvet is the brainchild of musical producer Peter Rix and theatrical director Craig Ilot. Rix has spent a lifetime managing 70s and 80s musical icons including Jon English, Richard Clapton and Marcia Hines. Ilott’s credits include the magic-themed Smoke and Mirrors and the cabaret style La Clique Royale. This relationship between the intoxicating musical beat of the disco period and acrobatic variety performances plays out throughout the production.

Velvet describes itself as ‘a nightclub and a state of mind.’ The show evolves around the relatively flimsy narrative of a young man on a journey of self discovery. At the start of the show we are introduced to Tom Oliver, appearing awkward in conservative working garb of the time. With the assistance of diva Marcia Hines, a number of acrobatically gifted characters and some of the best beats from the era, he seems to embrace the glamour and freedom on display and manages to turn the beat around. 

On the theatrical front, we see handstand artist Mirko Kockenberger performing a striptease themed display of strength and balance while Stephen Williams spins deftly above the stage on aerial chains. Emma Goh combines grace and strength performing aerial vignettes on hoops and ropes. Craig Reid, ‘the Incredible Hula Boy’ brings a welcome comic element to the production with hula hoops, attitude, lycra and sequins.

Music director Joe Accaria has produced a domineering soundtrack of B-sides and crowd favourites, including ‘Shake Your Groove Thing’, ‘It’s Raining Men’ and ‘Young Hearts Run Free’. Marcia Hines perfectly delivers a good number of these tracks, supported by the shimmering Rechelle Mansour and Kaylah Attard. Tom Oliver, as the central character in the production, gets to demonstrate his talent as a singer, in a combination of duets and solo performances, ending with a stripped back, if somewhat depressing, version of the quintessential disco tune, ‘Stayin' Alive’. Joe Accaria, as the percussionist and DJ injects some fun electric drum solos with a suitable amount of flare. 

The production is slick, with brightly lit interactive sets and glitzy costumes ranging from all-out sequins to masochistic leather. The choreography and singing hit all the right notes and the acrobatic performances were tightly executed. Velvet is a refreshing spin on the circus-cum-cabaret shows that have been relatively popular, yet broadly homogenous in the last few years. Similarly it’s an excellent medium for Rix to introduce Marcia Hines, one of the more inspirational women of Australian entertainment, to an audience that might not otherwise be compelled to go to see her. 

The amalgamation of variety and concert however, can appear unwieldy at times. Torn between watching Marcia Hines do her rendition of Donna Summer while the stage is full of dancers and aerial vignettes are spinning above, the audience member can be excused for not knowing where to look while wondering just what exactly might be going on in the absence of obvious unifying theme. 

The key to enjoying Velvet however, is not to over-think it. Lack of unification is easily forgotten when overwhelmed with nostalgic music, dizzying lights, spectacular feats and glitzy dancers. This seemed apparent as the theatre was full of people nodding their heads, tapping their feet and singing along. At the end of the show, which came too soon, the audience were mostly on their feet clapping their hands and shaking their groove things. 

Rating 3 ½ stars out of 5

Velvet
Presented by Canberra Theatre Centre & Organised Pandemonium Pty Ltd
The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre
3-14 May

Revelly Robinson

Monday 8 May, 2017

About the author

Revelly Robinson is a playwright and novelist. Her debut science fiction novel Pangaea is available from Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/415698