Christie Whelan on Britney Spears: The Cabaret

As Christie Whelan's star continues to rise on the Australian stage, she's bringing back her dark cabaret about a pop princess's fall from grace

Christie, the last time I spoke to you for Time Out you’d just wrapped up Xanadu, but you’ve moved onto bigger and better things. How are you going with Earnest?
It’s been great. I was very nervous coming in because it was my first [non-musical] play, and it’s such a famous play, and everyone talks about how wonderfully written it is. I’ve never done a show that was known for its dialogue. On my first couple of days I felt like I was going from year 6, you know, where you’re finally feeling comfortable, moving into year 7 when you’re back at the bottom rung.

But now I feel much more comfortable – and have much more of a grasp of the language especially – and it’s just enjoyable. Now we have so much fun. Probably too much fun...

I’ve seen on Twitter that erotic air guitar may or may not be involved.
There are things going on… actually I can’t even mention it because then people might be looking for it.

[Laughs.] Of course. Well, I was reading about your man the other day, who thinks of himself as a dancer first, then a singer, then an actor. Do you consider yourself a singer, dancer or actress in any particular order?
I really don’t know. I don’t really consider myself a great singer or a great dancer. But then again I would never say ‘actor’ at the top… I’ve definitely improved as a singer in the last couple of years and I suppose comedy acting I would put up there at the top...

You’re far too modest, Christie – you're a quadruple threat: you can sing, dance, act and rollerskate.
[Laughs.] I’ve hung up those rollerskates, they won’t be seen again, don’t you worry.

Well let's talk about Britney. I’d be interested to know if you’re still keeping up with Britney’s career because I think it’d be news to most that she actually put out an album in 2011.
I keep up with her insofar as I buy the weekly magazines – that’s my guilty pleasure in the dressing room – so I know what’s going on with her. Plus I follow her on Twitter. In terms of her music I haven’t really checked it out.

Yeah, don't do it. I put some on today – horrible. Horrible music, horrible lyrics.
Really?

"Your body looks so sick I think I caught the flu". Those sorts of lyrics.
Well, that’s the thing: the thing that we found in the lyrics of her earlier songs is that they’re all actually quite poignant. When you break them down and actually listen to them, they’re quite beautiful. It’s sad that it’s gotten to the point of “I think I caught the flu”.

And of course she’s drenched in auto-tune these days… That’s the other point: whatever you think about Britney Spears, the musical craftsmanship of those early pop songs was excellent.
Oh yeah, they were some of the best. The auto-tune crept in further and further to the point where people come and see the show they’re like, ‘I never knew what those lyrics were’ because it’s so distorted, yet they’ve become more and more so. I think that’s a common sound now. I just don’t get it. It’s everywhere.

So there’ll be no auto-tune in Britney Spears: The Cabaret.
Well, I attempt to do it myself to make it sound like the album.

Can you tell us the concept behind the show?
It’s looking at her life: everything that we’ve read about in the tabloids, but looking at it from her point of view. It’s her telling the story as it happened to her. Her ‘pussy hanging out’, her MTV comeback that was a disaster – those things we see from her point of view, which I like because we don’t really see her as a human being anymore. She’s just a picture in a magazine and a voice that we hear. She doesn’t do many interviews anymore so people stop thinking of her as an actual human being. That’s what I like about the show. It makes her real again to people, I think.

It’s interesting when you do start thinking about the human being, as you say – you’ve turned it into a cabaret, but it has all the hallmarks of a Greek tragedy. She became the victim of the music industry.
Yeah, the show is quite dark. I know a lot of people – especially when they came and saw it in Sydney and even the Adelaide Cabaret Festival before that – they were coming expecting a comedy and they were going to laugh no matter what, you know? They weren’t expecting it to be anything more than a pisstake. So it's shocking when it does go dark and sad.

Britney Spears: The Cabaret review

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First published on 12 Dec 2011. Updated on 20 Jan 2012.

By Darryn King   |  
 

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