Saturday, December 17, 2016

Cabaret: A Very Merry Christmas (★★★★)

John O’Hara, Gillian Cosgriff and Andrew Kroenert
Downstairs at the Maj
15 – 17 December 2016

On Thursday, America’s Santa Claus-elect, Donald Trump, declared that “we are going to say Merry Christmas again!”
Sadly, he couldn’t make it Downstairs at the Maj that night (although a man who looked alarmingly like his vice-president did), but he would have approved mightily.
As if inspired by The Donald’s pronouncement, John O’Hara, Gillian Cosgriff and Andrew Kroenert give the festive season a ticker tape parade in A Very Merry Christmas, and it’s a winning display of their talents and chutzpah.
Kicking off with It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – first as is, then given a “Perthmas” reboot – the trio gambol through everything Yuletide, from the sacred (The First Noel, Silent Night, a genuinely stirring O Holy Night) to the profane (Santa Baby, My Simple Christmas Wish), but most of the material is straight out of the Great American Christmas Song Book  – I’ll Be Home for Christmas, All I Want for Christmas is You, Let it Snow, The Little Drummer Boy, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and a tricked-up sing-along to 12 Days of Christmas (seven months of Netflix, six Crossfit sessions, five nut allergies…).
We know these songs; they’re a huge part of First World Fantasyland, secure behind its white picket fences and gathered around the presents and the ham. Maybe they are a mirage and a hoax – often a cruel one – but in these hands they are sweet, tasty and irresistible.
Trussed up in a suit of indescribable colour, tall, bald, and just a touch cracked, O’Hara is a generous ringmaster, and a grand performer. Cosgriff (who’ll be back soon with a new show for Fringe) is immaculate, charming and slyly capable of delivering showstoppers without seeming to lift a finger. Kroenert is the dabbest of hands on piano – Cosgriff tinkles as well – and guitar and adds plenty of vocal heft as well.
Taken separately, they’re a treat. Together, they’re a banquet.  
Could they have done more? Would, say, Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun or the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York have added some flavour and bite to the sugary feast?
Perhaps – but why quibble? For one sweet hour O’Hara, Cosgriff and Kroenert wrap us up an early Christmas present with the prettiest bow.

And – this time at least – Donald Trump has hit the nail on the head.

This review appeared in The West Australian 17.12.16