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Cabaret review: Taking it Up the Octave

Cabaret Festival

Soprano Antoinette Halloran is an accomplished opera singer and in her Adelaide Cabaret Festival show Taking it Up the Octave, you get a little more than you might expect.

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Halloran plays a woman looking for love in a bar; she carries a rose and a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, and is accompanied by the suave Patrick Lawrence, who plays the piano wonderfully but also pretends to be Mozart, Verdi and Puccini.

The essential idea of the performance is that Halloran should put down her novel and instead reach for Fifty Shades of Opera, which contains all the ideas of romance, sex and love that a woman could want.

There are many terrific numbers in this show and it is a clever combination of opera, blues and musical theatre: there is a very funny operatic version of “Touch-a, Touch-a Touch Me” (from Rocky Horror), a movingSend in the Clowns”, an aria from Samson and Delilah and a beautiful rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”.

As Halloran continues her story about her search for love, we are introduced to snippets of information about opera and lustful composers, and told that singers emit pheromones to attract other performers.  There are moments when Halloran gets up close and personal with the audience, such as when she delivers the sexy and sad “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”, and she delivers a brilliant version of “Miss Otis Regrets”.

Taking it Up the Octave also includes clever anecdotes about opera’s women who are often “good girls who go bad” – and, as Lawrence points out, they are usually killed at the end of the opera, hence the tragic endings.

Halloran is finally convinced by Lawrence to put away the cheap novel with its tawdry sexual adventures and instead look for love in Verdi’s Rigoletto. Once again, she begins to sing beautifully but the lure of the novel encourages her to sing from Chapter 7 and so high art meets dirty sex and, as Halloran takes it up the octave, the show climaxes in an operatic orgasm.

Needless to say, Taking it Up the Octave is a very satisfying experience.

Taking it Up the Octave is being presented again at Artspace, Adelaide Festival Centre, today and tomorrow night (June 9 and 10). Read more InDaily Cabaret Festival stories and reviews here.

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