The title of Kelly Auty: Backwards in High Heels seems to reference a quote on Ginger Rogers doing everything dance partner Fred Astaire did, but with an extra degree of difficulty. The gentle link between the two was a series of brief mentions of how female singers from the 1950s to the 80s overcame hardships to become stars, each followed by Auty’s recreations of their songs.
The style of the performance caused me some surprise. Cabaret Festival audiences have come to expect more reinterpretation or exploration of famous songs, coupled with a sharing of some personal relationship to the material. Instead, Auty offered tracks from a range of styles, and good imitations of well-known performers including Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner.
Her band of Boris Conley on piano, Nick Carrafa on drums and percussion, Max McIntosh on bass, and Brendan Mason on guitar, produced a solid set, hitting a particularly good groove on the blues and jazz numbers.
Some careful thought has gone into the diverse programme. I particularly appreciated that the offerings went beyond just the biggest hits of the performers covered. Also, the material took in some singers whose works don’t often feature on the cabaret festival stage, such as Miriam Makeba and blues artists Odetta and Pearl Bailey.
If you had hoped for costume changes, Auty seemed determined to break some sort of record here as she quick-changed her way through various outfits to suit the next song’s era: “It’s all about the frocks” she quipped. While Backwards in High Heels isn’t about to breach any new frontiers in Cabaret, it’s a fun show performed well, that’s suitable for all ages.
Kelly Auty and her band packed their two shows at Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2016 into one day. If you missed them, the group seem quite happy to take their show on the road, with various performances coming up in Victorian regional centres.
Melbourne Cabaret Festival – Kelly Auty: Backwards in High Heels
Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Performance: Saturday 25 June 2016 – 4.00pm
For more information, visit: www.kellyauty.com.au for details.
Image: Kelly Auty
Review: Jason Whyte