Ten years ago in the basement of the Rhino Room, a little-known Sammy J had Adelaide Fringe-goers in fits of laughter with his quick-witted, cleverly offensive, catchy songs. Since then, he has become a household name, making regular appearances on TV screens and at festivals around the world, often with his puppet side-kick Randy.
Last night, an Adelaide Cabaret Festival audience was transported back to 2006, albeit in a more glamorous venue: the Space Theatre in cabaret-mode.
We were treated to The Sammy J Songbook: just Sammy J, a piano and a packed audience in the palm of his hand (no distracting purple puppet) – and the result was brilliant.
Sammy J has a charming ability to deliver fast-paced, sharp comedy with awkward truths neatly bundled into catchy songs and friendly ramblings. The laugher was hearty and resonated around the room in response to his perfect combination of satire, social commentary and observational humour.
Touching on timely political wounds, the song “I Wish I Lived in a Marginal Seat” had us considering how best to use our time at the polling booths in a couple of weeks; “Keep It Clean” lamented the unfair discrimination against a particular expletive that should be “set free”, and old-favourite “The Backwards Song” is always impressive, whether you’re hearing it for the first time or the one-hundredth.
There was some awkward audience participation thrown, and we bonded as a group upon the forced reflection that one among us would be the first to die (and s/he who is the last will be the winner).
Supporting the flawless comedy is the fact that Sammy J is an exceptional musician. If you can keep a straight face, the music of his cabaret-style showtunes alone is enough to make this a great night out at the theatre.
The Sammy J Songbook is a priceless addition to the 2016 Adelaide Cabaret Festival program. Since that Fringe show in the Rhino Room back in 2006, Sammy J has grown up; his show is sharper, more polished and every-so-slightly more refined without losing the awkward charm that has endeared him to audiences around the world.
The Sammy J Songbook is playing one more show tonight, June 19, in The Space Theatre.
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