There’s something decidedly playful about listening to familiar songs in a new way. Cabaret thrives on the constant recreation of the classic songbook, by changing the pace, changing the tone or, in certain cases, changing the gender.
Performing as a part of the Blackcat Lounge, a season of queer cabaret currently running at Marrickville’s Sidetrack Theatre, Lady Sings it Better is all about reimagining the masculine through music, and giving the fellas a run for their money.
The five ladies, along with their sassy three-piece band, deftly navigate their way through everything from Alice Cooper to Michael Jackson via Johnny Cash and Peter Andre. Each song is recreated with its own decidedly sweet choral arrangement, using layers of harmonies and soaring solos to bring a feminine touch to the songs of men.
The strength of the show lies in the diverse range of voices. With the contrast between the Billie Holiday-vibrato of Libby Wood, the charisma of Chandra Franken and the raw power of Maeve Marsden, each of the five women has her own unique charm which is balanced with the others.
The lyrics of many of the songs are ripe with ultra-masculine clichés (oh the highbrow finesse of 'Pony' by the masterly Ginuwine!) giving the singers plenty of opportunity to plant tongues firmly in cheeks. But while the voices are beautiful and the harmonies complex, the show lacks the acerbic wit and aggression that could have brought out the real irony in the material.
With their cheeky smiles, sparkling voices and (self-confessed) awkward choreography, these women are more songbird-sweet than biting satire. While it is not necessarily feminist cabaret in the truest sense, the performers do slowly invite the audience to rethink the meanings behind a classic masculine mixtape.
Even if it’s done less with a wink, and more with a smile.