It’s the 30th Midsumma festival, and there’s a particular silly humour in the blatant redundancy of an offering called This Show is Gay by Dean Arcuri. Look at that promotional image (pictured above) with some sort of an inflatable unicorn for a pool party, spandex, a mirror ball … it’s a rainbow riot! Unlike many shows, this one does live up to its name. It’s just unfortunate that the work itself hasn’t been thought through as well as the image.
Arcuri had some headwinds to overcome in this cabaret premiere at Speakeasy HQ. For a venue of around three years standing, there’s some surprising bugs. The website doesn’t advise that the venue has a bar and food available, which would have saved us from bolting down dinner beforehand. The sound wasn’t always crisp, one speaker hissed throughout, and the sound guy didn’t seem to know the cues.
Another annoyance, especially in a festival with lots to see, was that while a 6:30pm start was advertised, punters were disappointed to find this changed to 7:30pm. Speakeasy did offer us a (non-Midsumma) warm-up show – which was ticketed and advertised in some quarters! – so it appears the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing, and both hands come across as well-meaning but a little amateurish.
We saw a similar amateurism once we finally got underway with This Show is Gay, around 7:20pm. Reading song lyrics during a show is not a good look. The rubber-suited and feathered Arcuri presented a selection of gay-ish songs, taking in songs by beloved by the gay community as well as those by gay performers. An energetic opening of The Village People’s You Can’t Stop the Music was a good start, but Arcuri doesn’t have the fitness to keep up the dance moves and still hit the notes.
Selections took in disco from Donna Summer and pop from Kylie Minogue, and were mostly competently handled to a backing track, with live electric bass from offsider known only as Aaron adding more of the freshness of a live gig. The show will benefit from Arcuri achieving a greater awareness of his own abilities, the lack of which is quite extraordinary given that this is his 10th Midsumma season.
Within his comfortable range he can sing quite well, say on The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, or George Michael’s Faith. But then moving on to something like Wham!’s Wake Me Up Before You Go Go showed a weak upper register. This limitation was highlighted by times where Arcuri had to compete against an unnecessarily loud backing track.
The between-song patter of this cabaret is a bit unfocused at the moment, but that should tighten up by the next show. Arcuri did have a couple of cute (PG rated) stories about how he confirmed he was gay and an incident at a public toilet, and the show will benefit from developing these further and finding a way to link them to the musical offerings. This Show is Gay is another show from recent times that is likely to be greatly improved by input from a writer and director.
A special mention is due to a guest spot from ‘Daz’, Arcuri’s visiting mate from Queensland, who gave us the night’s vocal highlights. These included a heartfelt Hopelessly Devoted to You from Grease and his effusive song and dance in It’s Raining Men.
We want to see performers and venues do well, but in 2017 we have a right to expect at least a reasonable level of professionalism. The rest of us couldn’t turn up to our jobs and turn in the sort of half-arsed performances we often see on Melbourne stages. This Show is Gay should have been a more satisfying effort considering that it had a capable singer and some good moments to build on. It is probably best suited to those looking for some silly fun rather than a knockout vocal performance. For that you would have been much better off at A Night at The Musicals with Jonny Woo and Le Gateau Chocolat this Midsumma for around the same ticket price.
This Show is Gay
Speakeasy HQ, 522 Flinders Street, Melbourne
Performance: Thursday 19 September 2017
Additional dates: 28 January & 4 February 2017
For more information, visit: www.deanarcuri.com for details.
Image: Dean Arcuri features in This Show is Gay (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte