Fancy Meeting You

Cabaret of quality is hard to find, but this ensemble nailed it.
Fancy Meeting You

The city centre is buzzing. Now, this is not a sentence that many would equate with central Perth, especially in the evening and especially on a weeknight, but times are a-changin' and the city has more going on than ever before. Late night eateries and a stream of new bars have opened up along the main terrace and the West end, bringing new life back to the city.

Downstairs at 'the Maj' has really come into its own as a venue, no longer the poor cousin of the sparkling 'Upstairs' His Majesty's Theatre, but luring its own loyal clientele on a repeated basis with its string of top class cabaret, comedy and smaller 'boutique' shows.

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Last week featured Fancy Meeting You, a marvellous collection of songs and characters that took the audience inside the famous New York Cotton Club, a whites-only establishment that dared to feature many of the best best black entertainers of the era such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday, to name a few.

Izaak Lim, Amalie O'Hara and Kathleen Douglas wrote a beautiful narrative, introducing the theatregoers to Lucille, Abe and Maggie, three larger than life characters who work together at the Cotton Club and the trials and tribulations they go through trying to put on a show. Interspersed with the anecdotes are some of Harold Arlen's greatest tracks - 'Stormy Weather', 'Come Rain Or Come Shine', 'Accentuate the Positive', 'The Man That Got Away' and of course 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', a complete celebration of the master of the Great American Songbook.

As soon as Lucille welcomes her 'little Christian soldiers' to 'our little prayer group', the scene is clearly set as a speakeasy in the era of prohibition, and the audience is blessed 'in the name of the vodka and the spirits' underneath the 'moonshine'. 

Focusing on three characters is a smart move by the producers, as by the end of the evening the audience has travelled quite a way with each personality, and witnessed the highs and lows in the stories of each.

Cassandra Charlick, a native Perth girl turned international cabaret chanteuse takes a while to warm up in her role as Lucille, but also has what is perhaps the hardest role of the three, the tough mamma bear who runs and stars in the show. William Groucutt plays Abe as a shy, lisping man who lives and loves through his music, and Ann-Marie Biagioni shines as ditsy Southern Belle, Maggie May Adams. The jitterbugs (Biagioni) entrance is a perfect comic introduction to how the rest of the show follows, and the pretty young thing from Alabama's hunt for her missing shoe is a highly creative segue, both in and out of the interval. All three have perfectly pitched voices that simply ooze the spirit and soul of yearning, lust, love and heartbreak, and almost every rendition of the old standards is a standout – beautifully harmonised and arranged.

Many difficult subjects of both the Prohibition era and today are represented – the downfall of a marriage, adversity faced by people who were gay, interracial relationships and generally everything faced by those who don't fit into the box of being mainstream – and are are delivered in thought provoking and very personal ways so the crowd never feels lectured at, but instead feels for the characters.

On stage throughout the show is a sizzling three piece band, who although they could do with matching their facial expressions a little more to the action in front of them, did a wonderful job of evoking the era.

Cabaret of quality is hard to find, but this ensemble nailed it.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Fancy Meeting You
Starring Cassandra Charlick, William Groucutt & Ann-Marie Biagioni.
Directed by Michael Loney.
Produced by Perth Theatre Trust
Downstairs at the Maj
29-31 October 2015

Victoria Wyatt

Monday 2 November, 2015

About the author

Victoria Wyatt has worked across the music/festival/theatre scenes in New York, London and Rome for the last 15 years. She is currently back in her hometown of Perth and can be found writing for Artshub, designing sets and interactive displays for children's/community events and stage/production managing around town.


Victoria has worked across the music/festival/theatre scenes in New York, London and Rome for the last 15 years. She is currently back in her hometown of Perth and can be found writing for Artshub, designing sets and interactive displays for children's/community events and stage/production managing around town.
Victoria has worked across the music/festival/theatre scenes in New York, London and Rome for the last 15 years. She is currently back in her hometown of Perth and can be found writing for Artshub, designing sets and interactive displays for children's/community events and stage/production managing around town.
Victoria has worked across the music/festival/theatre scenes in New York, London and Rome for the last 15 years. She is currently back in her hometown of Perth and can be found writing for Artshub, designing sets and interactive displays for children's/community events and stage/production managing around town.
Victoria has worked across the music/festival/theatre scenes in New York, London and Rome for the last 15 years. She is currently back in her hometown of Perth and can be found writing for Artshub, designing sets and interactive displays for children's/community events and stage/production managing around town.
Victoria has worked across the music/festival/theatre scenes in New York, London and Rome for the last 15 years. She is currently back in her hometown of Perth and can be found writing for Artshub, designing sets and interactive displays for children's/community events and stage/production managing around town.
Victoria has worked across the music/festival/theatre scenes in New York, London and Rome for the last 15 years. She is currently back in her hometown of Perth and can be found writing for Artshub, designing sets and interactive displays for children's/community events and stage/production managing around town.