Review: Lady Sings it Better – Hayes Theatre

One of the great things the Hayes Theatre is able to do, as a new home for independent musical theatre and cabaret, is give precious performance space to some of the artists Sydney already has such affection for. By giving a home to Lady Sings it Better – a concert/cabaret outfit of women performing songs written by men – they are reaching out and integrating with the community at large.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen the group before, as they’ve been around several years, and I had come across them before, but they fit beautifully into the Hayes, in its eternally malleable, possibly magical tiny space that seems to invigorate all the acts that call it home.

Lady Sings it Better
Lady Sings it Better. Photo by Viv McGregor.

Lady Sings it Better are Maeve Marsden, Chandra Franken, Libby Wood,  and Anna Martin, and from the moment they arrive on stage with their mashups of Jason Derulo’s “Wiggle” and The Wiggles, you’re immediately presented with their brand of humour: offbeat, feminist, and unashamedly fun. (The doo-wop choreography looks like a Bette Midler backup dancer routine, and that’s a real compliment).

The whole point of highlighting these songs is to illustrate just how ridiculous, yes, but also highly sexist the lyrics are – somehow, when “Stacy’s Mom” is a torch song rather than a cheeky light rock throwaway, the uncomfortable lyrics, and our discomfort with them, is all the more evident. The “Blurred Lines” cover is a little on the nose given how much coverage the song has actually received in its time, but then the performance of Usher’s “Dive” is inspired.

The great thing about Lady Sings It Better is that their fun, beautifully sung show is a wilful and proud political act; it’s rare to see something as staunchly feminist as a bunch of women making music together, especially when the goal is to prove just how much of the music we listen to is deeply influenced by the male gaze.

The other great thing, of course, is that it’s entertaining. With clever arrangements and beautiful (and beautifully devilish) voices, the group takes you on a tour of pop music with a twinkle in the eye and a cluck of the tongue. Their rendition of Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me” is incredible fun, as is a delve into a boy band medley. When the performances are this strong and the crowd is this pleased, it’s impossible not to leave with a buzz.

Lady Sings it Better’s next show at the Hayes this Sunday is sold out, so keep an eye out for cancellation tickets – or check them out at The Factory on October 4. Book now before it sells out too!

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and was the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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