Image by Viv McGregor
Popular music culture is saturated with songs that have been written by men; songs that are upbeat, catchy, and that you find yourself earnestly humming along to without knowing what the actual lyrics are. Lady Sings It Better is here to help with that. This musical cabaret troupe reinvents well-known songs in a successful attempt to educate their audience about the not-so-hidden meanings behind them, many of which are aggressively sexual and horrendously misogynistic.
Comprised of Maeve Marsden, Libby Wood, Annaliese Szota and Fiona Pearson, Lady Sings It Better covers countless tunes, from boy bands and RnB artists, to ‘80s rock groups and current ‘Top 40’ singers, and they even throw in a bit of The Wiggles to really get things started. Not a single lyric is amended for comedic effect, which means that every word that is sung, no matter how cringe worthy or humorous, is a legitimate part of a song that has probably been played to death on commercial radio.
The performance begins with the four fabulous females standing solidly behind microphones lined up neatly across the stage. Donned in bright coloured t-shirts very similar to those belonging to a certain Australian children’s music group, they launch into a medley of songs involving copious amounts of ‘wiggling’. Hayden Barltrop accompanies them on piano, and Lauren Allison enthusiastically drums along on an instrumental box. After this energetic opening, ‘The Ladies’ discuss the premise of their production, explaining light-heartedly that their creation is an educational journey to help us understand just what it is to be a ‘real man’, via the power of words found within man-made music. These women are feminists, but they don’t need to be forceful to get their message across. They simply showcase the perverse content in the popular music we listen to every day, and their unspoken comments on misogyny are heard loud and clear.
That is not to say that this performance is to be taken too seriously. While the themes are certainly significant, the show is intentionally silly and hilarious. The girls are quirky and delightfully exuberant, and an hour-long laugh session is absolutely guaranteed. Their onstage chemistry is great and their voices even better; beautiful harmonies and side-splitting banter maintain a brilliant balance of pure talent and entertaining comedy.
Each performer has unique traits that differentiate them from the others. Marsden has a boisterous attitude that demands attention at all times. She epitomises the cabaret style with her loud personality, powerful voice and devilishly playful manner. Wood begins with a sweet façade, but soon reveals her inner-creep with a slowed-down, wide-eyed version of Stacy’s Mom. Taking on the sleazy persona of the group, Szota may be a new addition but she is equally capable. Her rendition of the infamous Who Let The Dogs Out is horrifyingly enlightening, as everyone quickly realises that this nostalgic tune is actually about something far more demeaning than cute little puppies on the loose. Pearson plays her part with an endearing awkwardness; she is not as lively as the others but her facial expressions are priceless. Her animated reaction to a repulsively erotic pop tune she belts out is a definite highlight.
Barltrop also steals the spotlight for one sickly sweet solo, which breaks up the performance nicely. He and Allison are excellent accompaniments to the four singing starlets, with Allison’s contagious grin also worth a mention.
Sassy, passionate, and downright hilarious, Lady Sings It Better is comedic cabaret at its best. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, these ladies have put together an incredibly fun show that is likely to change the way you listen to many of your favourite tunes.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Lady Sings It Better
The Ladies: Maeve Marsden, Libby Wood, Annaliese Szota, Fiona Pearson
Keys: Hayden Barltrop
Drums: Lauren Allison
Vocal Director: Cate Madill
Choreographer: Laura-Beth Wood
Composer: Tim Hansen
Artistic Director: Maeve Marsden
General Manager: Phoebe Meredith
Production Assistant: Karly Pisano
The Butterfly Club, Carson Place
April 15 – April 19