A Class Act at the 2016 Melbourne Cabaret Fringe didn’t quite live up to its title. Vocalist and songwriter Ilana Charnelle, with musical director and accompanist Ned Dixon, are a couple of young performers who are basically competent in their disciplines. There’s a big jump between this and producing a quality show, A Class Act needs an outside ear.
Dixon’s piano was often just too loud in such a small venue. This frequently exposed Charnelle’s weakness in her lower register, as she was unable to compete. This, added to some murky diction, left us guessing at lyrics to an unfortunate degree. Charnelle also overused her ability to belt out notes, some of these becoming what’s been called “shouting with tone”, and it wasn’t always a very pleasant sound.
This is Charnelle’s first solo cabaret, and its description sounded quite good in the Melbourne Cabaret Festival guide as it promised “old fashioned romance from the golden age of entertainment.” It was unfortunate that the show didn’t match this description.
A Class Act mostly features Charnelle’s own compositions. For a first outing, she might have been better off with established songs, or at least more thought about the set list. Many offerings could have been improved by cutting repetition of choruses. This, coupled with relatively little variation in tempo or style, made the set feel quite monotonous.
From her opening, Charnelle launched into songs without appreciating that many in the audience don’t know enough about her yet to be invested in her stories. It will be well worth her time to look at how some contemporary cabaret artistes have honed their craft to draw us in. Some good recent examples are Noni McCallum’s Tinderella from MCF 2015, and Amy G’s Entershamement from this year’s instalment.
Dixon and Charnelle have much youthful enthusiasm. Hopefully they’ll find a director to give their work a structure that better displays their talents. Good on The Butterfly Club for giving new performers a chance to develop their craft.
Melbourne Cabaret Fringe 2016 – Ilana Charnelle: A Class Act
The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Performance: Saturday 18 June 2016 – 5.30pm
Season continues to Sunday 19 June 2016
Information and Bookings: www.melbournecabaret.com
Image: Ilana Charnelle – photo by Sophie Caligari
Review: Jason Whyte