Perched at the piano, Eddie Perfect welcomes a cellist and violinist on stage to join him for an intimate hour of musical musings plucked straight from the inner workings of his mind, and he starts out with a catchy tune about bin night (a Thursday for the singer-songwriter, in case you were wondering).

Perfect can make even the most mundane things in life into a song worthy of the stage and while “Taking out the Bins” has the audience at the Dunstan Playhouse laughing behind their masks, it has surprising substance for a song about garbage.

Introspective marks Perfect’s return to the Australian stage after two years in New York writing the scores for Broadway musicals King Kong and Beetlejuice the Musical. He’s armed with stories and songs of his time away and recounts his success, failure and experiences in the Big Apple.

A raging success is “Dead Mom”, the most-covered song from Beetlejuice and the one that got him the job in the first place. Perfect tells the audience: “I’m not one of those ‘songs can change the world’ kind of people, but this song very much changed my world.”

The Dunstan is the ideal venue for Introspective – just the right size to achieve the intended intimacy. The setting is small, but the sounds are big as the strings and keys rise and fall with Perfect’s powerful voice. The stage is lit subtly with masterful restraint; every other element on stage draws you further into the songs, never detracting attention.

The show features songs written for the Broadway stage that didn’t quite make it there, but were thankfully whisked off the cutting-room floor. Perfect has said he wasn’t sure how American audiences would react to his humour, but it wasn’t a problem with the Adelaide Cabaret Festival crowd when he belted out Beetlejuice reject “Death’s Not Great”.

The night’s absolute highlight, “Death to the Critic” – Perfect swears he’s not scarred by the not-so-nice reviews of King Kong – is a powerhouse tune written for an upcoming musical he’s working on. There’s a delicious Sweeney Todd-like dark tone to the intense number.

It’s the one time during the night that Perfect seems to turn into a character; although some of the other songs he performs were written for Beetlejuice characters, he notes that upon reflection there is a discernible thread running through the songs he was writing while in New York and the way he was feeling in his own life.

The cabaret comedy has moments of uproarious laughter, flawlessly-timed wit and heartfelt reflections, but above it all and binding it together are Perfect’s consummate songs. Down time during the Melbourne lockdowns gave him cause to look inwards to curate the show, and if this is what it sounds like inside his mind, it must be quite a nice place to be.

Eddie Perfect is performing Introspective at the Dunstan Playhouse for the final time tonight (June 19).

See more Cabaret Festival stories and reviews on InReview here.

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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.