Melbourne Cabaret Festival: Lady Rizo

Self-described “chanteuse and torch singer” Lady Rizo demands  attention. It’s not just because of her glamourous ascent to the stage in a black gown and body glitter, it’s  because of that voice. Performing in a variety of styles with a four-piece band, this Lady could sing you to sleep or kick your arse in a show with some compelling musical moments.

Lady Rizo. Image supplied.
Lady Rizo. Image supplied.

With a program ranging from Dolly Parton to Nine Inch Nails, the Lady showed herself adept at jazz-infused melancholy to rock-chick grunt worthy of Janis Joplin. A highlight showing further versatility was a version of ‘Bali Hai’ with a soothing sway like a palm in a tropical zephyr. The show was also spiked with the odd Lady Rizo composition, and I was amused to hear an update to the torch song genre through a number bringing obsession over lost love into the age of search engines.

Of course the discipline of cabaret is singing plus more, and Lady Rizo has her own take on this which is less polite than some. She doesn’t mind dropping the odd F-bomb or fisting reference, and is happy to give indirect insight into the matter of the obligatory costume change. Looking around the rather, ahem, experienced cabaret aficionados present, I’m not sure this comedic tack was a winner, but at least it wasn’t overused. I don’t know that it added much however, and from what I’ve seen of Yana Alana (appearing at this Cab Fest), she does a better job as a bawdy songstress if that’s your interest.

The show had something of a bitty feel, which I’m unaccustomed to in a show from a cabaret diva. As we don’t have the luxury of seeing Lady Rizo in New York whenever we feel like it, I would have liked more of an introduction to her story and art. In this chaotic cabaret, there were fun elements, such as Lady Rizo’s rather feline drinking of a martini, but these, and some snippets of stories, didn’t illuminate her character all that much. My enjoyment of an insight into her upbringing in Seattle was diminished by the all-American, mom-and-apple-pie assertion that “We’re only poor if we choose to be” (easy stomach!). I also felt my attention drifting during the overlong conclusion where Lady Rizo – who we haven’t really gotten to know – dispenses life advice to the audience.

I feel that the promotional material overstated the comedic aspect of this show, however, a visit to the Recital Centre is a fine opportunity to take in a showcase of Lady Rizo’s voice, and enjoy an evening of eccentric allure.

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