Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2016 – Joe Stilgoe: Songs on Film

Joe Stilgoe photo by Matt HumphreySuppose you and some friends wanted to put the best film songs from Hollywood’s golden age and beyond into a 60-minute show. Imagine the arguments – how could you even start? Just as well that Joe Stilgoe is a film buff as well as a gifted singer and pianist. There’s no time to think about what should be in or out when everything Stilgoe’s Jazz trio does in Songs on Film is this good.

Songs on Film arrives in Australia after two sell-out years at Edinburgh Fringe. With Double Bassist Tom Farmer and Percussionist Ben “Bam Bam” Reynolds also supplying backing vocals, the trio delivered a diverse, nuanced programme. This included clever medleys of movie themes (including Jaws, Casablanca, The Godfather and E.T.) or cartoon music, as well as well-known tunes from film scores.

The trio bring an irrepressible, barnstorming momentum to the up-tempo numbers, such as It’s Almost Like Being In Love. At more than one point I thought I was at a Jazz Rave with people grooving in their seats. In the slower songs, such as Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head, the group’s flair for re-interpretation was especially apparent.

They understand that interpretation is not changing something that works well to feed your vanity. Their renditions slanted the musical emphasis in new directions whilst still respecting the originals.

Cabaret tends to have some measure of audience participation. As children of the 1980s, Stilgoe, Farmer and Reynolds invited us to play a game of guessing the film score that had the song they played. As the review night crowd was judged as up for this, another game followed, and these had enthusiastic participation.

In terms of sharing personal stories with the audience, the main contribution was a song of Stilgoe’s creation. Popcorn recalled Stilgoe’s experience of a grand old velvet-curtained cinema of the type that many of us of a similar vintage saw our first films in. A critic could argue that the personal component is a bit slight for this show to be “Cabaret”.

However, if you’re more worried about seeing a high-quality musical performance, Songs on Film is a journey through film scores that’s as big as the silver screen itself and as much fun as a Pixar feature. If you’re hesitant about Jazz, you’ll never find a more accessible introduction than this one.

Unfortunately for many, the Melbourne Cabaret Festival season has finished. However, Songs on Film has four shows at Adelaide Cabaret Festival from 17 – 19 June 2016. Give it some thought. Yep, they’re that good!

Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2016 – Joe Stilgoe: Songs on Film
Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Performance: Thursday 16 June 2016 – 8.15pm

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Joe Stilgoe – photo by Matt Humphrey

Review: Jason Whyte