Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Timber Dreams, the cabaret review masterminded by Joel Bow, of Joel Bow Productions, as a part of the Anywhere Mackay Festival.
The concept was simple and seamless; stage a performance of some kind in a random location- anywhere but within a theatre- and bring on the entertainment. Of course even when Joel Bow does something simple he sets the bar at extraordinary, so he enlisted not only two very talented local songbirds, Kyra Geoghegan and Molly Rossetto to take up the challenge, but he got them and pianist Sarah Rosekrans to accompany the one, the only Kurt Phelan, whom a lot of lucky or theatre-savvy folks will recognize as Johnny Castle from the Australian production of Dirty Dancing. Together, this very talented quartet performed a variety of numbers from a few different genres over two sets in the highly original setting of Porters Timber Stockyard.
I will set the scene for you now- stacks of treated timber shelved all the way to the monstrously high ceiling, soft candlelight and colored mood lighting, heavenly incense wafting through the door to mix with that lovely timber smell (my husband works in a timber yard so that scent is borderline erotic to me now, lol) an intimate but eager audience scattered around the front of a very simple, vintage-inspired stage and two very gracious hosts greeting you at the door and making sure you’re not wanting for a refreshment or five. Everything Joel does is elegant, but Timber Dreams managed to be mysterious and cozy with a hint of rustic, and I guess that is one of the many upsides to the Anywhere Festival– it takes people out of one comfort zone but then introduces them to a new and very unexpected one. With the right eye, anywhere can be romantic, and Joel Bow has that eye, all right.
The performers were beautifully dressed in gorgeous evening wear too, and they absolutely sparkled under the lights- not just on the outside but from within. Molly Rossetto is still pretty fresh out of the Conservatorium Of Music, but she has the stage presence of someone who has been doing what she has done for decades. I’m currently in the production of MMCP’s Wicked with her and have seen her perform in quite a few things over the last year, and I’ve noticed that she tends to take on a lot of very dark or intense roles, which suits her perfectly because she has an incredibly strong voice and a very high range, which is hard to find. However, I saw a lighter side of Molly last night as well and I was delighted by that. She had quite a few songs and they were incredibly catchy and cheeky, so much so that I ended up Googling them earlier this evening because I was immediately a fan, and I don’t think I was the only one absolutely enamored by the tune: ‘A Contemporary Musical Theatre Song,’ which resonates like a cheeky in-joke for Thespians and theatre goers. Molly’s voice is a big one, not unlike Adele’s, and I really enjoy how effortless she makes singing a string of big-belt numbers look. Though younger and fresher onto the the scene than Kurt Phelan and Kyra Geoghegan, Molly definitely held her own last night and then some, and I think it’s safe to say that we can expect to see a lot more of her around the region in the future.
Kyra Geoghegan is a very seasoned local performer, and one that I have had the pleasure of seeing with and woking with many times before, but I was absolutely dazzled by her rendition of ‘How Bout A Dance?’ from the musical, Bonnie & Clyde last night. It was pitch perfect and luxurious, and proved why she so often gets cast as the lead in local productions: the girl just has that quality that puts asses in seats. She has an incredible Mezzo-Soprano sound and a belt that never fails to hit the back of every room, but more than that, she has this natural gift for connecting with the songs that she’s singing and then forcing that connection on the audience too. Seriously, I don’t get how she manages to make even eyebrow movements hypnotic but she does- when Kyra’s singing, one cannot take their eyes off her face and with the right song, she’ll move you to tears. I’ve always said that Miss Geoghegan is wasted on Mackay because I know she could move people anywhere, but truth be told, I’m very grateful for the fact that she’s chosen to not only stick around Mackay to dazzle audiences, but to endeavor to pass on her many gifts to her students at Aspire Performing Arts.
And then there was Kurt Phelan, and I don’t think even I have enough words to sum up exactly what seeing a Kurt Phelan performance is like, but I’ve seen him perform three times now, and I know that I will continue to drop whatever it is I’m doing in the future to see him again. Kurt is a top shelf singer and there’s absolutely no denying that, but he is is a performer in every sense of the word and so there is never a dull moment or a lull when he’s around. If you haven’t seen one of his shows yet, you’re missing a real treat, because he knows how to make you laugh, cry, snort-giggle and drink more, and you don’t see a single drop of effort behind anything he does. The man’s just a natural charmer with exceptional comic timing, and he knows how to string songs together with a few well-worded anecdotes that are delivered in a manner that will move you from tears to laughter without a beat being missed. I enjoyed every single song he sang last night whole-heartedly, but ‘Burn for You’ was the highlight for me, and I’m a big fan of the way he interacts not only with everyone from the production team, to the audience, but the way he draws attention to his fellow performers as well, bringing credit where it’s due. Really, if you haven’t been fortunate enough to catch one of his shows yet, do yourself a favour and follow him on Facebook or Twitter so you known when he graces a Mackay stage next, and ladies, take your husband along as I did but Kurt’s sense of humour is accessible to all kinds- and it wouldn’t hurt for some of his personal style to rub off on ‘em either because the boy from Ayr can wear a suit like no one’s business!
And in the vein of bringing credit where it’s due, I must say that I’ve never seen a musician captivate a room quite the way Sarah Rozekrans does. She chooses to be off stage and often to the right of it but Sarah has as much presence in every performance she does as anyone with a microphone in the spotlight. The way her fingers fly over piano keys is stunning in itself, but like Kyra, she has a way of connecting with the music while inviting others to connect with her. She never misses a note, she always looks stunning and when she’s inviting to jump in and start singing too the audience is always wowed. Her and Kurt have a fantastic chemistry that I noticed during his performance Phelan Groovy in 2014, and I believe, a very similar sense of humour so they’re a delightful combination every single time. As satisfying as the entire show was last night, I have to admit that my favourite moment was hearing the thunderous applause that was all for Sarah because she earned every beat of that.
Timber Dreams was definitely a singular experience, and I can honestly say that there wasn’t a face in the crowd that didn’t look like they were having the time of their life (pun intended like a mother) last night. Like everything that Joel Bow has done so far, and will certainly continue to do, it was an evening of perfect harmony, class and laughter delivered in a way that was seemingly effortless even though I know just how hard the cast, Joel and his crew; Greg Sugden, Tim Philips and Leah Edwards work to deliver such beautiful illusions. Five stars from start to finish guys, thanks for doing everything you do, and so well.