Adelaide, Adelaide Fringe 2014

Bel Canto Bowie

0 Comments 16 March 2014


What would you expect from a Fringe musical in which two Catholic choir girls find meaning in life in the form of David Bowie? Obviously nothing that takes itself too seriously. In that sense, Bel Canto Bowie delivers much more than expected. Although it is often beautiful musically, the show emphasises its deficiencies over its proficiencies.

As the title implies, Bel Canto Bowie presents bel canto re-workings of David Bowie’s music. It’s exactly the kind of nostalgic stylistic fusion that feels at home in La Bohème. Writer-directors and performers, Natalie Oliveri and Adriana Sturman have beautiful, well-trained voices. Even with only a piano for accompaniment their renditions of old favourites are soaring and enjoyable.

These songs are framed by a flippant, lightly didactic tale in which the choirgirls learn that classical music and 70’s pop are both valuable styles. The fact that Oliveri and Sturman thought it necessary to qualify their synthesis, however, gives the impression that they have doubts as to its value. Of course, the audience already know the value of both styles. After all, they bought tickets to a show called Bel Canto Bowie. As such, the moral of the story seems more for the benefit of the performers then their crowd.

If the plot serves to offset flaws apparent to the artists, then its delivery serves to offset flaws apparent to everyone. The ridiculous acting seems like an indirect apology by the actors for their self-consciousness. Remember the kid in your high-school drama class­­ who, when forced to actually be on stage, played their performance off as a joke so as to distance themselves from any embarrassment? The performances in Bel Canto Bowie are reminiscent of that. The jokes are juvenile, their delivery over the top, and after a time the cast start to relish in this.

Somehow, this spiral of self-consciousness translates into joy. What’s more, it is received with uproarious laughter.  Everything, from the trash devil getting his coat caught on the piano-stool to the perplexingly staged audience intervention, has the La Bohème crowd on the edge of gleeful tears.

Bel Canto Bowie may not be a well-constructed piece of musical theatre. Self-consciousness may not be certain to translate into comedy. But for some reason the audience seem to like it. Regardless, the music is entertaining and the laughs are cheap, if you can get them half price.

Bel Canto Bowie, La Bohème, Mar 5 to Mar 16

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This post was written by who has written 18 posts on Buzzcuts.

Annie is a recent graduate of a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences from Adelaide University. She enjoys reading, playing Scrabble and looking at pictures of gorgeously ugly dogs. Currently fulfilling the life-long dream of working in a bookshop, she has aspirations to be an editor.

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