Imagine Baz Luhrmann decided to make an Australian Romeo and Juliet after watching The Godfather and attending a burlesque show and that is a fairly apt summary of That’s Amore. Fun, a little strange, and with a healthy degree of cross dressing, it makes for an entertaining evening. Although maybe not the sort of show you take your religious grandparents, it is still something worth checking out.
Cabaret is an art form that lends itself to comedy. However, That’s Amore, like many cabaret’s and burlesque shows, the humour is not one that leaves you in stitches, but rather makes you feel good throughout with the occasional burst of belly laughter. That’s Amore, as a performance with a set story and a complex interaction between performers, sound, and a movie screen, leaves little room for improvisation, but they really nailed the art of ridiculous and over-the-top performance, with an absurd story and even more props and stage work.
The best way to sum up the atmosphere of the show is the feeling of sitting in an Italian café late at night, whilst watching a Luhrmann-esque production of songs being sung in Italian and really impressive dancers parading around onstage in various stages of undress. The audience was laughing at appropriate moments (and the inappropriate ones too), and, as usual at burlesque and cabaret shows, it was the women who seemed to go wild in the audience rather than the men. It was quite enjoyable.
Production wise, the show was nearly perfect. The costumes were fantastic, and really hammered home the Italian theme. Some were more positively received than others (whoops and cheers went up several times during the show), but they were all very well done. The transformation of the main lead (Annabella Mozzarella) between her female stage presence and her male alter ego (Johnny Parmigiana) was nothing short of spectacular. More generally, the work that went into the show is apparent – especially the interplay between the pre-recorded stuff on the screen (there was a cinema screen in the background) and the dancers was particularly impressive.
So was the dancing mind you.
One problem was the setup of the location. The café-esque situation invited the people to converse, but this style of performance didn’t really lend itself to background entertainment (unlike a soft jazz band for example). This probably contributed to the numerous chats that were constant throughout the show. Furthermore, the first half of the show was not as strong as the second – people seemed much more invested in the action on stage during the second half, and everything seemed to get more intense.
Once again, it is important to remind Melbourne audiences of correct show-time etiquette, which, to everybody’s eternal shame, had to be mentioned during the show. If the performers chuck things from the stage (not unheard of in cabaret), the correct response is to laugh it off and hold onto the item. You do not proceed to throw the things back at the performers. To their eternal credit, the dancers didn’t bat an eyelid, even when a loaf of bread bounced off their shoulders, but they had security escort the troublesome audience-members from the show. Even more generally, despite the setup of the performance hall, it is always polite to quieten down when the show is in progress.
Overall, an enjoyable show. Although there were some problems (especially with the audience), it was an enjoyable night out. The laughs and the absurdities made for everyone leaving feeling quite upbeat and in a good mood.
That’s Amore is on at Howler Bar on 6, 7 & 9 April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets are available online and at the venue.