The show marketed itself as giving an insight into San Francisco’s Forbidden City nightclub in 1942. This Chinatown hotspot for the rich and famous served as the backdrop for some possibly fictional characters. We were given a little historical background, taking in the internment of Americans of Japanese origins, and fragments of news stories, such as on one Hollywood stars pitching in by selling war bonds.
Our main focus is twenty-one-year-old Estrella Wing, who sings and dances at Forbidden City. Performer and writer Margot Tanjutco either spoke as some unnamed narrator or as the singer describing her experiences. The story revealed challenges posed by the times to Estrella’s partnership with fellow dancer Jacqui.
Estrella doesn’t like to be alone when the energy of the club fades, and has times of lapsing into languorous escapism, or possibly delusions. Some might find that, as we don’t know Estrella, finding out a little more about her will assist our involvement with her story. A variety of colourful diversions, such as neon signs conversing in ocker accents, took time away from developing Estrella’s tale.
For me, the appeal of this show beforehand was the promise of jazz and comedy. It was disappointing that we got very little of either. Instead, aided by Keyboardist and Musical Director Imogen Cygler, Tanjutco delivered songs across a range of styles. The odd offering was from the 1940s; unfortunately Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy wasn’t the best choice, highlighting a weakness in Tanjutco’s lower register.
However, Tanjutco did well in tracks from more recent times where she was more firmly in her comfortable range. Some of these renditions could drop the odd repeated chorus though to keep matters moving along.
David Bowie’s Starman was one of the standout tracks, and when the jazz arrived it was done particularly well. Cygler demonstrated good awareness of the mood of certain pieces. Small flourishes, such as punctuating a rumbling passage with a delicate touch, displayed her ability to imbue notes with feeling.
Estrella Wing, Showgirl is a diverting cabaret. Based on the show’s best aspects, we can expect good things from Cygler and Tanjutco in the future.
Estrella Wing, Showgirl
The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Performance: Wednesday 20 SEptember 2017 – 5.30pm
Season continues to 24 September 2017
Information and Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au
Image: Margot Tanjutco features in Estrella Wing, Showgirl (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte