Parting the Red Curtains

Parting the Red Curtains Jan van de StoolThere was more than a hint of nostalgia surrounding Queenie van de Zandt’s decision to premiere her latest show, Parting the Red Curtains at The Q in Queanbeyan, just a few hundred metres from the long gone School of Arts Café, where in 1988, more than 30 years ago, as a school girl, she made her first professional appearances in a show called The Essential Lloyd Webber with Bronwyn Mulcahy and Peter J. Casey. Casey is the co-writer of this current show.

All went on to have substantial professional careers in entertainment, and while Queenie has appeared in any number of major musicals and established herself as one of the finest vocalists in the country, it is as her alter ego, Jan van de Stool, that she is best known.

Self-proclaimed International Musical Therapist, interpretive dancer, singing psychologist and musical masseuse, van de Stool is a brilliant creation who rivals Barry Humphries’ Dame Edna Everage in her ability to convince her audience that she really is who she purports to be.

Malapropisms, mispronunciations, unselfconscious innuendo role off her tongue in side-splitting succession, as she happily skewers the cult of celebrity, self-help gurus, theatre critics, psychics and anything else that enters her mind.

Van de Stool proclaims at the beginning of hers is “a show that takes it up the arts”, and while she refreshingly eschews coarse language, she flies close to the flame as she hilariously instructs two hapless gents from the audience in the finer points of microphone technique.

The laughs come early as van de Stool loosens up her audience with bump exercises, before inveigling some on to the stage to discover previously unsuspected cabaret talents. She interviews “celebrity” guests, battles a persistent ghost medium which keeps trying to take over her body, and copes heroically with her incompetent (unseen) accompanist, Helen.

Often bordering on the chaotic, it was hard to decide whether her show was under-rehearsed, or if van de Stool was being brilliantly subversive by deconstructing the genre to create that appearance. Either way, she is hugely entertaining.

Later this week, Queenie van de Zandt reverts to song-bird mode to present two performances of her acclaimed cabaret, Blue – The Songs of Joni Mitchell, for which Helen will be replaced by the legendary composer and pianist, Max Lambert.

Parting the Red Curtains 
The Q – Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, 253 Crawford Street, Queanbeyan
Performance: Wednesday 28 February 2018 – 8.00pm
Season ended

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Image: Jan van de Stool stars in Parting the Red Curtains (supplied)

Review: Bill Stephens OAM