House of Desire, a youth theatre cabaret produced in Gympie, is similar and different to the famous 1966 stage show and film version of Cabaret by John Kander and Fred Ebb.
Menacing yet kind MC, Mr Sandman, played by Fletcher Colfs? Check.
Engaging, flamboyant guests in the House of Desire who sing about their dreams and longings and dance like marionettes? Check.
High kicking chorus line numbers and ritzy show tunes? Check.
House of Desire differs from Cabaret however, in that it’s not set in pre-war Berlin and it’s not as sad and scary as the original version.
The themes of House of Desire are more hopeful and empowering than the original Cabaret, set as it was in the dark approaching shadow of the Nazi regime and World War Two.
House of Desire could be set anywhere: let’s say 2023 in the regional town of Gympie, Queensland where a talented young ensemble cast aged 17 to 25 have interpreted a cabaret show in today’s world.
Directed by Sarah Harvey and Fletcher Colfs (who is clearly going somewhere), this is Perseverance Street Theatre’s third youth production for 2023. CEO Sharon Hogan gave the cast and crew free rein to create a cabaret that reflects being young in the 21st century.
Hosts Mr and Mrs Sandman (played compellingly by Miranda Robb) present seven larger than life characters, each with a dream or a secret they share with the audience through song and dance.
Classic show tunes are mixed with original songs and some unexpected choices.
The characters all sing in well-pitched voices reflecting the excellent vocal coaching of Sarah Harvey. Most of the vocals could have been a little louder, to really get that tingle-all-over effect a high octane show tune or heart wrenching ballad can evoke.
There’s plenty of physical comedy, with the standout being pyjama clad, infatuated Monica magnificently transforming into a femme fatale who sings and dances seductively to several versions of her crush: Leonardo De DiCaprio.
Every character has their own kind of charisma, though Monica, played by Mackenzie Knickel and Eugene, played by Noah Skuse, owned the stage during their numbers.
Claire Rackemann’s operatic voice and delicate presence as Roxanne was effective, particularly in her duet with Eugene giving out Mario Lanza vibes.
There were a few moments in this duet and other numbers where lighting could have been used better to dramatically highlight the singers as they ‘gave good face’.
All the characters ‘dreams and desires’ were resolved bar Peggy, who didn’t get closure from my point of view.
Choreography by Justin O’Mara and Mackenzie Knickel was fun, daring, exuberant and technically tight.
Makeup and costumes were blingy, with enough velvet, glomesh and brocade for a Mardis Gras. As an ensemble, the cast were united and smooth and performed as one, reflecting good direction.
Glamour in Gympie
As a fan of the theatre and film versions of Cabaret and lover of the genre, I was delighted to see this young cast and crew bring all the flamboyance, jaded glamour and bonhomie of cabaret to House of Desire.
It’s charming, saucy and a little bit magical. See it this week if you can get a ticket (a little birdie told me it’s nearly sold out).
House of Desire runs at Perseverance Street Theatre, Barter St, Gympie until 12 November.