By Adam Rafferty
Winner of the Best Newcomer award at the 2022 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Frankie McNair hasn’t rested on her laurels over the last year. Returning this time around in the form of a washed-up lounge singer of yesteryear named Tabatha Booth, we learn from a comically bad projection of a ‘documentary’ about the fading star that she’s of the ilk of Eartha Kitt, Liza Minelli and her ‘momma’ Judy Garland.
Once her ‘stage manager’ Julian sorts out some staging issues and Tabatha finally makes her ‘tap-dancing’ entrance it’s swiftly apparent that Ms Booth’s talents as a hoofer are as wavering and indecipherable as her accent. Swinging wildly between the voices and attitudes of Ms Minelli and Marlene Dietrich, Tabatha couples charming vocal tones with mildly threatening audience interaction. She’s a loose cannon sliding around the stage with ever-increasingly larger ‘cigarettes’ hanging out of her maw.
McNair has a lovably surreal style to her comedy that works well in the context of an unhinged former star trying to claw back the successes of her past. However throwbacks to previous gags (even with anachronistic Long Fork Lady video reference supplied) feel like they’ll mostly be appreciated by those who saw last year’s show. Giggling her way through the show, McNair makes it otherwise easy for punters to get in on the joke and a pivot towards the burlesque by show’s end adds an entirely different facet to the performance.
Readers of Theatre Matters and certainly this writer, have seen lots of cabaret shows over the years that take the mickey out of booze-addled ingenues created by artists with the triple-threat skills to make a ‘bad’ show fantastically funny and entertaining – Trevor Ashley and even Broadway Barbara come to mind. While on the surface this fun show presents itself to be something of that style, An Intimate Evening with Tabatha Booth is more of a crazy parody than an hilarious homage.