OneStopArts.com / Review / Writing: Journalism

Bum Notes: The Tallulah Show at the Etcetera Theatre (*)

The Tallulah Show loosely follows Tallulah’s emotional journey after a break-up, from sadness to her reintegration into life. Unfortunately, Tallulah is simply not strong enough to pull off a solo show of this magnitude, even with able help from Anthony Stephen Springall. At the Etcetera Theatre.

Tallulah Windmill’s cabaret show at the Etcetera Theatre combines music and a dramatic story to awkward effect – the simplistic story could work as a framework for the songs chosen, but Tallulah is simply not strong enough to pull off a solo show of this magnitude, even with able help from Anthony Stephen Springall.

The Tallulah Show loosely follows Tallulah’s emotional journey after a break-up from sadness to reintegration into life – starting with reminiscences of love, before moving into despairing ballads and drink, and finally ending with power pieces showing her casting off her sadness. Set in a collection of boxes bestrewn with props and costume pieces, the stage looks like a young girl’s bedroom – with an added pianist.

It’s hard not to be cruel when critiquing a show in which the performer is such an integral component – especially when that is precisely the main reason the show flounders in the doldrums instead of soaring impressively. Tallulah is a competent performer, but nowhere near strong enough to hold her own: her singing is throaty and pleasant, but has none of the power that cabaret demands. I had trouble hearing her, despite her microphone, in the front row – not a fantastic start. Notes were not hit as cleanly as they could be, with plenty of waver; this is a performer that might do well as part of a chorus, but she’s simply not enough on her own to carry a show – at no point more cruelly obvious than during the damp squib of a final number, “Life of the Party”.

There are also serious issues with conception: the selection of songs is inventive, but couching them in a story-telling contex is a flawed premise. Cabaret is about allure and sensuality, and I gained none of that from watching a young woman moping around the stage in her scanties. They were not even particularly scanty scanties, which might have added something. That and some particularly ill-chosen costume pieces – including a loosely-bound corset than hung off her like some strange shroud – and overly-simple props made for a very awkward evening.

This just wasn’t a success, and there were really few redeeming features. Springall is a talented musician and pianist, as evidenced by his long list of credits, but his keyboard playing in such close proximity to the audience meant that each note was ever-so-slightly preceeded by a plasticated clunk, extremely noticeable during glissandos. In the context of a classic cabaret gig, with open tables encouraging people to drink and chat discreetly, this show would at least have been less uncomfortable, but that doesn’t change the fact that Tallulah Windmill simply doesn’t deserve her own solo show. She’s got some pizzazz and character, and her singing is decent, but that’s about it – and that’s just not enough.

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