Unseen: A tribute to Marni Nixon – Adelaide Cabaret Festival

The history of musical films is a mysterious thing. While on-screen action often demands that audiences suspend their disbelief, off-screen commonalities, like voice dubbing, were rarely treated with the same level of candour. As such, the magical, iconic and diverse voice of Marni Nixon was hidden for years behind a curtain of confidentiality clauses. Nevertheless, Marni Nixon is the voice of the stars, the voice behind the curtains, and the voice that has immortalised so many classic musical theatre songs.

Known as ‘the voice of Hollywood’, Marni Nixon’s story is not so well publicised as her on-screen counterparts’ (Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno to name a few). Melody Beck’s new cabaret ‘biopic’ Unseen: A tribute to Marni Nixon tells this fascinating and important story.

Melody Beck. Image by Blueprint Studios
Melody Beck. Image by Blueprint Studios

Melody Beck, winner of the 2014 Your Theatrics International Cabaret Contest, debuted her new show in front of audiences at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The initial 10 minutes of Unseen: A tribute to Marni Nixon delivered upon the promise of a fascinating story and a strong musical talent. The twinkle in Melody Beck’s eyes primed the audience for an intimate and engaging musical journey. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that many elements in this highly anticipated production were grossly underdone.

The combination of nerves and under-preparation left the audience feeling awkward, wishing for Beck to re-find her rhythm of the first 10 minutes. Beck clumsily stumbled through much of the dialogue and her accents became muddled between character transitions. The piano was too quiet for the Artspace and the production would have benefitted from a follow-spot, as much of the action took place in darkness.

Thankfully, Beck’s musical prowess was the saving grace of a production that failed to reach it’s potential. The medley of Shall We Dance, I Could Have Danced All Night, and Tonight was spectacular, but by then, the twinkle in her eyes was lost.

I have no doubt that Unseen: A Tribute to Marni Nixon will develop into an excellent cabaret show. The story is strong and engaging, and Melody Beck clearly has the goods. More work with a director is required to take the show to the next level. Watch out Queensland – she’s coming to you next and by then I’d expect a stellar performance.

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