New York Nights… and intimate mornings [FringeTIX]
3:30pm, Sun 13 Feb 2011
Sidonie Henbest was highly recommended to me by a friend; this recommendation was notable because it came straight after Nikki Aitken’s performance. I don’t usually try to slot stuff that wasn’t on the Shortlist in, but I knew the timeslot was available… So an afternoon of smokey, New York-inspired late-night cabaret tunes was booked.
Now – Sidonie has got a wonderful voice; great range and control is backed up by a stage presence that varied from commanding to demure, cheeky to shrinking violet. And Alana Dawes was fantastic on bass; she was very restrained for much of the time, but when there was a good bass run needed a big grin would break out on her face… she was great to watch.
The problem, though, was Matthew Carey… or, more specifically, Carey’s vocals – his ivory-tinkling was fine.
Carey’s vocals, so effective when sparingly used yesterday, just sounded flat in this performance. Off-key, even. And, whilst that made his solo pieces sound uninspired, like he was sighting the lyrics off his sheet music, it seemed to ruin the duets he shared with Sidonie. It honestly sounded like she fought to match his key, dragging her singing off as well.
As you can imagine, this was pretty tragic for a show where maybe a third of the songs were duets. As such, the only really notable parts of the performance were the songs where Sidonie could use her glorious voice to full, unencumbered effect; Cry Me A River was a standout, but any of the torch songs would do, too.
In short, this would have been a much better performance if Carey had (to be frank) kept his mouth shut. The singing was cringe-worthy enough, but the Liza Minnelli big-noting? the dedication of a song to the people of Queensland? That just sounded disingenuous.
Which is a shame, because the women – and the piano-playing – were just fine.