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IN CONVERSATION | Lisa Woodbrook | This cabaret show is finally being performed as part of Crown Live Sessions this April

Interview | Laura Money

Lisa Woodbrook is a phenomenal cabaret artist who has successfully performed in Fringeworld and travelled her shows around Australia. Her show Feeling Way Too Good: The Music of Michael Buble was cancelled during the snap lockdown but now she’s back finally performing the show as part of Crown’s Live Sessions. We spoke to her back in Fringeworld before all this happened and she gave us an insight into the show.

So, what’s it all about?

Well, it’s kind of the old ‘when life gives you lemons’ thing and also you get to experience me singing with a five piece band! This show is more focused on the musical elements but just like the last show (Lilly Allen & Amy Winehouse) I do comedy in between the songs. There’s a nice flow to it and it’s going to sound great as we’ve got a great band. I love the music of Michael Buble and wanted to perform it and he always does it with a full orchestra so I have an orchestra of five people! I wanted people who came back for the second show to have something extra special to enjoy. I mean a piano and a singer is great but you get a fuller sound with a whole band.

Is this usual for you? How did you get started?

I did my Bachelor of Musical Theatre and then went on to work in Melbourne and then COVID brought me back to Perth six years later. I’ve been working with different bands and doing corporate gigs and events. I went back to Melbourne straight after Fringe last year and then in March I lost everything because all the gigs shut down. I couldn’t do weddings or Melbourne Cabaret Festival so I lost work for about six months and then I decided to head home. It’s been great, since I came back it’s been pretty full on – so Melbourne was shutting down and it felt like being in a war zone but leaving was the best thing I did. Since July I have been gigging consistently. I even did We Will Rock You last year and it was wonderful to be onstage in a massive theatre. I’m just really grateful for my experience. Who would have thought a pandemic would have created something like this?

So, being back in Perth gave you time to work on the Buble show?

It did! Well it definitely gave me the concept and the ideas – you know last year was really tough for a lot of people and I feel lucky and grateful for hat happened to me last year because I don’t think that I was that affected at all. I did change my life and where I was living but really I could still perform because Perth was so protected. The rest of the world haven’t been so lucky, like the UK and Europe it’s just so sad what’s happening and they’re like the hubs of theatre and entertainment in the world and they’re in lockdown. Plus things are closing down like amazing jazz bars in New York and the West End in London – it’s such a shame, so I guess that I developed a positive outlook on life and got to sing every weekend and just do what I wanted to do. You just never know when you might not be able to do that.

It seems like positivity is the theme of this show, let’s be honest what’s more positive than Michael Buble?

It sounds so cheesy and corny but all of his songs are so fun and uplifting and there are lovely crooner songs which I love to sing and I just thought this is a great concept to take into 2021 – everyone had such a tough year and they’re all still going through a bit of a tough time so I guess if you want to feel good and tackle some of the lemons that life throws you and listen to the songs I’ve picked then maybe you’ll have a good time. The content isn’t as naughty as the other show but it still has that Lisa flavour – it’s still cheeky but I maybe don’t swear as much like being at a family brunch! I just thought it was good for me to branch out as an artist and try a new demographic and do something a bit different.

What will people get out of this show?

They’re all feel good songs and I think a lot of people will love the band and the music. It’s been interesting writing this show because the songs are all so happy and uplifting there’s nothing really that you can take out of it to make fun of. As a writer it’s been interesting matching the stand-up and comedy elements with the music of Buble. But I think I’ve come up with some good ideas. It’s fun, it’s uplifting and it’s great music.

The Live Sessions at Crown start on Friday 9th April 2021 and you can grab your tickets HERE


REVIEW | Elvis: All Girl Tribute to the ’68 Comeback Special | An evening of great music and phenomenal vocals in Crown’s Live Sessions

Review | Laura Money

Don’t be lonesome tonight, get yourself down to see Elvis: All Girl Tribute to the ’68 Comeback Special it will be better than checking into the Heartbreak Hotel and you’ll be all shook up after an evening of classic Elvis hits performed by a diverse group of fabulous women. The show celebrates all things Elvis and is a fitting tribute to the King himself with different musical styles paying homage to his rockabilly, country, and rock styles. It’s a full power hour of a little less conversation and more dancing in your blue suede shoes!

Seasoned performer Darlene Gianoli is rather enamoured by Elvis and wanted to create a show based around his music. After reading about the ’68 Comeback Special she was surprised to find that the King had been out of the spotlight for years before he finally hit the stage in a tv special that featured his greatest hits. Gianoli watched in raptures as an all-star cast recreated the special in 2018, including Keith Urban and JLo and thought she would give the tribute a red hot go too. Kicking things off with Mr TCB himself, Elvis fanatic Peter Chase gets you in the mood along with the band including Razor Jack on the guitar the stage is rocking and the atmosphere is crackling with great music.

The girls are completely different in style from Gianoli who brings her signature showgirl style to a stunning rendition of You Were Always On My Mind that moves the audience to tears to the fiery Gemma Luxton who gets you moving and grooving with Hound Dog. It’s a great blend of country and rock all from the actual concert itself but brought to life by the brilliant stylings of each performer. Libby HammerNatalie Martinic, and Zoe Simpson take on the funkier side of Elvis with great versions of Don’t Be Cruel, Blue Suede Shoes and an underrated classic Love Me. The intimate setting and fierce camaraderie sees the heart of the show ripple through the crowd and serves to highlight the nuances in Elvis’ repertoire.

So, get ready to love them tender and don’t be cruel because when these girls get to the Jailhouse Rock the whole audience will be jiving!

The Live Sessions at Crown Elvis: all girl tribute to the ’68 Comeback Special is part of a programme that began on Friday 9th April 2021 and you can grab your tickets HERE

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REVIEW | Girls Gone ABBA! | Live Sessions at Crown Nightclub

Review | Laura Money

Get ready to dance the night away with Girls Gone ABBA! The only show that kicks out the BB and highlights the ladies! That’s right – these five incredible women take you on a musical journey through ABBA’s top hits and will have you screaming SOS and searching for a man after midnight.

Girls Gone ABBA features five powerhouse performers putting the flare(s) back on stage with their hour-long love letter to the music of ABBA and the inspiration and hope of the Mama Mia movies. From the title song itself to classics like Waterloo, Super Trooper and even Fernando each song is given the girl power treatment and performed with warmth and heart. The five women are firm friends and this shines through as they lift each other up through backing vocals and incredible harmonies. The arrangements are cleverly suited to each other’s individual style from the pop fun of Darlene Gianoli in Honey Honey her notes glide off one another clearly and smoothly – to Libby Hammer and Natalie Martinic killing it with their jazzy blues sound in Voulez Vous and Gimme Gimme Gimme. Zoe Simpson is a true talent with her hilarious and raunchy rendition of Does Your Mother Know That You’re Out – channelling Christine Baranski in all her glory. And then there’s the firecracker that is Gemma Luxton belting out SOS and I Do, I Do, I Do – both songs are transformed by her powerful vocals.

The magical element of this show is the chemistry between these amazing women who support each other with a genuine love shining through every note. They take inspirational and uplifting quotes from the movie – all from Donna’s diary – and sing the songs that make you happy. Everyone can’t help but flock to the dance floor when Gimme Gimme Gimme starts up and the love onstage ripples through the crowd with sheer happiness. The camaraderie and love colours the music in a beautiful way – you’ll get chills with the unbridled heartache of The Winner Takes It All and the playful nature of Super Trooper mirrors the tight bond of Donna and the Dynamos – in this case, they’re all DYNAMOS! So, girls I thank you for the music and an incredible night out!

The Live Sessions at Crown Girls Gone ABBA is on Saturday 10th April 2021 and you can grab your tickets HERE

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REVIEW | Miss Lily’s Fabulous Feather Boa | School holidays just got more entertaining!

Review | Laura Money

Going to Spare Parts Puppet Theatre is always a magical experience but things have become decidedly more fabulous this school holidays as they present Miss Lily’s Fabulous Feather Boa. Based on the wonderful picture book by Margaret Wild with illustrations by Kerry Argent the play brings the characters to life – slinking, running, and tentatively leaping off the page onto the stage in this delightful adaptation. The show takes all of the charming elements of the beloved book, much to the delight of all in a truly memorable and entertaining show that appeals to those seeking wonder, humour, and technical prowess. It’s simply wonderful.

The Spare Parts stage is transformed in to a tropical paradise with a stunning moveable set by Iona McAuley (designer) complete with beaded doorway and frangipani garlands and populated by the signature charming puppetry Spare Parts is renowned for. Performers Cezera Critti-Schnaars, Ming Yang Lim and Tristan McInnes bring out the vibrancy of Sanjiva Margio and Lyndell Darch‘s stunning puppets with grace and fun – they don headpieces as the hilarious Koala and Wombat families allowing for funny physical humour. McInnes tackles the huge puppet of Miss Lily and deftly maneuvers her large frame with the grace and aplomb of the stunningly fabulous character, and Critti-Schnaars brings heart and tenderness to The Last Potoroo, gently moving her tiny and adorable puppet across the stage in her big adventure.

This production does a wonderful job of showing not telling as it cleverly depicts the cricket mad Koalas in direct contrast to the footy loving Wombats, the outrageous tango-dancing Miss Lily and of course the palpable sorrow of The Last Potoroo. McInnes’ Miss Lily is fabulously flamboyant, cavorting about the stage with humour and pizzazz. It crackles with subtext and wit as The Last Potoroo warily eyes Miss Lily’s big sharp teeth at dinner time, quaking after being told she only eats ‘little things’ which elicits a palpable gulp then chuckle of relief at the offering of fish and chips! I cannot overstate how clever and funny this piece is – the story arc of the Wombat Dad discovering his talent and passion for badminton is played subtly but is important for children to see they can be who they are even with the pressures to conform. The Last Potoroo’s morals are shaken in a perfectly thrilling nightmare sequence that Critti-Schnaars brings vulnerability and charm alongside the spectacular antics of the feather boa and deliciously creepy lighting by Karen Cook.

Everything about Miss Lily’s Fabulous Feather Boa speaks to the heart. It takes big concepts such as self-identity, the morals of stealing, self-expression, loneliness, and community, and exhibits them through visual cues, comedy, and a stunning musical curation by Lee Buddle. Michael Barlow‘s direction wholly encompasses the spirit of the story with its laid back holiday vibe and seamless transition into multiple characters. There is a poignancy felt in the loneliness of The Last Potoroo and pure joy ripples through the audience in the show’s heartwarming conclusion. Make sure you get to Miss Lily’s Tropical Holiday House and treat yourself to a rip-roaring, Aussie flavoured hour of fun!

You can get your tickets to Miss Lily’s HERE and can even purchase the original book in a package!

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IN CONVERSATION: New Live Sessions at Crown kick off in April with all girl tributes to Elvis and ABBA

Interview | Laura Money

When Crown Entertainment heard about Darlene Gianoli‘s cancelled FRINGEWORLD 2021 shows they decided to get in touch and do something about it. Now, Gianoli’s crack team of girls are set to entertain you at Crown in the old EVE Nightclub space in a series of Live Sessions across April. Gianoli has been entertaining Perth audiences for over 25 years and is one of the best in the business. She got a group of five girls together to provide unique and diverse music that speaks to multiple generations. We caught up with her to find out what her shows are all about.

An Elvis show I can understand, but why the ’68 Comeback Special?

Right, so Elvis had been in the army and in movies for so long he hadn’t been singing – he was pretty much forgotten. I’ve got a book on the ’68 Comeback Special and there was one point and this was really interesting – Elvis was really out of the public eye because of movies he was out of the public eye as a singer. People had forgotten him, so in that 9 or 10 years things had changed. Now I know just from working even in the corporate industry in Perth things change every 10 years, my acts only last for about 10 years because then the next generation comes through and you either have to change up what you’re doing or do something completely different.

So in this book, Elvis lived in LA in this high rise – he was there with his family and his whole crew and they were getting ready to go talk to agents about the ’68 Comeback Special and he said to his crew “I’m going to go downstairs on Hollywood Boulevard and I’m going to see if people recognize me.” He wanted to see if he was remembered – if he had done that ten or twenty years before he would have been mobbed. So he actually went down and he was standing on the footpath and no-one took any notice. And I thought that was really interesting.

Now, in 2018 it was the 50th anniversary of the ’68 Comeback Special and in America they did what they called an all-star tribute to it. And it was great! They had Post Malone, they had J-Lo, and all the modern singers and what they did is, they did it on stage in the round, just like he had done. It was very much an intimate audience – they only allowed two hundred people in the audience. And he did an acoustic set on this round stage, so what they did in 2018 they replicated that so they had it in the round with a small audience and they recorded it live for tv.

When I saw that, I thought ‘I’m going to do that with girls’ – that’s what I want to do, is grab five girls and put this together with a live band. So wee got a small band and just did it acoustic and I was really pleased with it because that’s what it was in the original ’68 Comeback Special. It was hugely successful – now whether people had seen the all-star tribute I don’t know but that was the angle and that was where I got the concept from to do it. Interestingly enough about 6 months or so before this project, I set up a group in Perth with another singer Narelle Bell for Perth girl singers/entertainers/musicians. We have over 400 members and we’re so supportive of each other and in this group I met this bunch of girls – there’s about three generations of girls in this show so we all bring something different.

Clearly, feminism and female empowerment is something you’re passionate about. How does it feel in the industry right now?

As a singer it’s been like the last 6 months, when I put the show together last year the vibe of the show wasn’t as powerful and female solidarity centred as it was the most recent show. One of the questions was ‘is your show an all female show?’ Everyone’s aware of it now. With female singers in Perth it used to be all about being gorgeous and skinny up there in a sparkly costume and it doesn’t have to be that – I wanted to break that whole cycle. It’s been so empowering for us. Yeah, I’ve been working in the corporate scene for over 25 years and the last 6 – 12 months has been amazing.

When I set up this group I asked for four girls to work with and they’re all so different. We all come from different musical backgrounds – it works so well because we actually blend together rather than all having the same kind of voice – we’ve got me corporate showgirl. We’ve got Gemma Luxton who is back in Perth after being over east – she’s huge in the country music scene. Libby Hammer who is the jazz diva of Perth, Zoe Simpson is more a rock singer. And then Natalie Martinic – she’s the soul singer of the group – big bluesy soul. The five of us are so different but it works.

So, how did the ABBA show come about?

My background is corporate but I always do cabaret but you either like cabaret or you don’t. I always look at what the audience will like – I still want to love the music I’m singing – but I try to keep things a little more mainstream. It’s about getting up there, having fun and making the audience feel good about themselves and do songs they know. My strength is making people smile and making them happy. So I always look at what is current so I did that with the Elvis show – I mean of course I want to sing Elvis but at the time the All-Star concert had just been done so let’s take that inspiration. And as far as the ABBA show, the Mama Mia movies are still popular and have brought ABBA’s music to a whole new generation so I though let’s do an ABBA tribute with the same girls ( we don’t need the boys) and we’re using a backing track. I wanted to specifically work with the Mama Mia movies so I pulled out the story from that. Donna in the movies when she passed away the daughter got her diary, so what I did was I found some replica diaries and I pulled out all the best positive lines that were in the movie and we use the songs that were in the actual movies and with our little diary we call out the quotes from the diary. They’re all inspiration and at the end of the show we want you to walk away with inspiration and a smile on your face and a happier outlook on life.

The moment we started performing people are singing straight away! By the second song, everyone’s up dancing. That just blew my mind!

What’s next for you?

I really want to work with the same girls. The guys from Ace’s Cabaret (Fringe) want us back next year so I’m thinking it might be girls gone Queen. Something like that and I just love the idea of five girls doing Bohemian Rhapsody!  

The Live Sessions at Crown start on Friday 9th April 2021 and you can grab your tickets HERE

Featuring all female line-ups of a variety of music from Elvis and ABBA to Buble and The Andrews Sisters!

Image credit: Naomi Reed Photography