Some will have missed Danielle O’Malley’s contribution to A capella group, Ginger and Tonic’s entertaining For Love or Money at this year’s Melbourne Cabaret Festival. You’ve got a second chance to see her via You’re My World – The Cilla Black Story, an hour of music drawn from the best 1960s Liverpool has to offer.
Taking the stage as the red-haired Cilla, quite early on O’Malley said something like “You didn’t come to hear me talk”. Whilst this might have been fine for past appearances at a fringe festival, it’s quite the cop-out for a cabaret festival show. In this context, the audience may expect more personal reflections than we can get from a typical concert.
The personal dimension is particularly important these days. Thanks to the internet, we can see original performances of someone like Cilla Black from home, sparing us from Melbourne’s chilly winter nights.
Some ABC-watching Australian audiences would have had some exposure to Black’s story through the three-part series Cilla that aired in August 2016. Having missed this, I was keen for some insights into the life and times of this contemporary of — and sometimes competitor for #1 chart position with – The Beatles.
There was the odd tale of Black’s upbringing in Liverpool, including an insight into the one song she sang in her native Scouse accent. Other tales related to her appearance at a Royal Command Performance (almost) before Her Majesty The Queen, or feeling she’d ‘made it’ when given a hotel room with her own black and white tv and telephone.
The slight tales between tunes give the impression of the girl from humble beginnings made good. As such, they’re much more useful to the story than moments such as an unmotivated veer into a medley of Beatles songs.
Fortunately, the music itself is of a high standard. O’Malley has done well to recruit pianist and musical director Mark Jones. Jones is an accomplished interpreter of ‘The Fab Four’, as shown through past works including the widely-toured Get Back with Melissa Langton and Libby O’Donovan. The arrangements strike a wonderful balance of respecting the originals whilst freshening them, so that we can hear new aspects of familiar songs, Norwegian Wood being one particularly good example.
Some 60s pop doesn’t have so much variety for the rhythm section. Here, bassist Tamara Murphy impressed particularly with her expressive upright bass, and percussionist Sonja Horbelt showed a suitable sensitivity with brushes in some of the more melancholic phrases. For fans of the diva herself, O’Malley gives strong performances of the Cilla’s hits, including Alfie, Anyone Who Had a Heart and Goin’ Out of My Head.
There were times when the blending of the individual quality elements resulted in a rare alchemy. A snippet on the breakup of The Beatles followed by the 1965 Lennon-McCartney song, In My Life was one highlight. The rendition showed the surprising power of lyrics packaged in the right melody to get beyond being nice music and prompt the listener to connect their own experience with the song.
The success of such a sneak attack suggests that with some more thought and ambition, this could be something rather more original than a tribute show. You’re My World – The Cilla Black Story won’t challenge the festival audience as we’ve appreciated in past years. Regardless, it’s a perfectly pleasant evening of music.
You’re My World – The Cilla Black Story
Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Performance: Wednesday 28 June 2017 – 6.30pm
Season continues to 1 July 2017
Information and Bookings: www.melbournecabaret.com
Image: Danielle O’Malley
Review: Jason Whyte