By Nick Pilgrim
Stewart Reeve is an award-winning one of a kind. Or, to put his brilliant hour-long roller coaster ride in sharp perspective, he is every kind.
In over a decade of reviewing, I have had the privilege to witness a solid handful of world-class local and international vocal impressionists including:
- Ross Chisari as Robbie Williams (Let Me Entertain You – The Robbie Williams Story)
- Belinda Davids as Whitney Houston (The Whitney Houston Show)
- Rachel Dunham as Oprah Winfrey (Oprafication)
- Nina Ferro as Judy Garland (Judy – Australia – 1964)
- Frank Ferrante as Groucho Marx (An Evening With Groucho)
Where the above-mentioned entertainers focused their attention on a single icon, Reeve is like a cheeky jukebox on hyperdrive. With high energy to spare, he is like the fast-talking lovechild of Peter Allen, Mark Trevorrow (as Bob Downe), and Sean Hayes (as Jack McFarland) combined.
For sixty non-stop minutes, his staggering gift for mimicry flowed thick and fast. In rapid-fire succession, Reeve covers popular artists such as:
- Anastasia (‘I’m Outta Love’)
- Phil Collins (‘In The Air Tonight’)
- Darren Hayes (‘To The Moon And Back’)
- Maroon Five (‘This Love’)
- Men At Work (‘Who Can It Be Now’)
- Tina Turner (‘Private Dancer’)
- Tones And I (‘Fly Away’)
Other personalities thrown into the mix included David Bowie, Macy Gray, Matchbox 20, and would you believe, Donald Trump!
Stars of the stage and screen also get a mention with Ellen Greene as Audrey from Little Shop Of Horrors singing ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ and Tim Curry’s Frank ‘N’ Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (with ‘Sweet Transvestite’ and ‘Going Home’). After a while I lost count, simply sitting back and enjoying the journey unfold.
Rarely have I seen a performer establish such instant rapport with an audience. Very much at home in the spotlight, Reeve is never far from having a laugh at his own expense, either. Radiating tremendous confidence and charm from the get-go, Reeve had us eating up every hilarious moment. To live inside his head would make for a fascinating residence.
More than a random string of tricks, Reeve ties Chameleon together with a delightfully anecdotal narrative. Though the use of several telling photographs projected at key moments in the show, gives viewers both a sense of his theatrical childhood and fascinating professional evolution. (I can never look at the movie, BMX Bandits, or the electrical goods store, Harvey Norman, in the same way ever again!) Furthermore, to be a self-starter is exactly what it takes to stand out from the crowd, and Reeve does this in spades with Chameleon.
Similar in structure and format to recent efforts like Michael Griffiths: Greatest Hits and Steven Hall – Letters From My Heroes allows Reeve to really shine. Meaning, he uses part of the evening to deconstruct the artform in technical terms that audiences can digest and easily understand. I would never have connected Anthony Newley with David Bowie, or Tom Waits with Heath Ledger (as The Joker). But there you have it!
Guiding us beyond the proverbial velvet curtain, this method of demystification is a brilliant touch. Reeve makes the lesson both entertaining and educational. Not an easy task.
If the audience in attendance on Thursday night is any indication, this is cabaret with wide-ranging appeal. Clearly, there is something on offer for everyone. Gasworks Park’s Theatre is the perfect venue for his material as well. Always up close and personal, makes for a highly immersive night out. The time simply flew by.
Reeve offers thirty stars (and counting) for the price of one. I can’t think of better value than that to chase the Mid-Winter blues away. Chameleon plays for a strictly limited season at Gasworks Theatre in Albert Park until Saturday July 29.
Catch it while you can.
Images: Brig Bee Photo