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The cabaret charisma of Capsis


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The Paul Capsis Revue is like watching myriad different performers rolled into one glorious, satin-suited, bling-enhanced package. Jazz singer, rock powerhouse, soul sister, stage actor – Capsis is all of these and much, much more.

His sheer charisma commands the audience’s attention the moment he walks onto the Festival Theatre Stage and immediately launches into “Everybody Wants to Touch Me”, the title track from his debut studio album.

Next up is the macabre “Ballad of Mack the Knife” from The Threepenny Opera – “He’s a sadist, he’s a rapist and they haven’t caught him yet” – and we know we’re in for a wild ride.

Backed by a four-piece band including musical arranger Andrew Patterson on piano, Capsis channels artists ranging from Patti Smith and Janis Joplin to Amy Winehouse and The Rolling Stones in a performance that showcases his extraordinarily versatile vocal ability and chameleon qualities.

There are surprises and twists aplenty. A rousing intro to “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (the Marilyn Mansion version, complete with thumping electric guitar) rapidly turns into a medley that includes The Doors’ “People Are Strange”, while Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” is re-born when Capsis sings it in the voice of the legendary Billie Holiday.

Other highlights include a spine-tingling rendition of American singer-songwriter Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die” and Patti Smith’s growling rock track “Pissing in a River” (“My bowels are empty, excreting your soul / What more can I give you? Baby I don’t know”).

There is indeed a dark energy running through the show, especially the first half, yet it is offset by Capsis’s mesmerisingly theatrical stage presence, dance moves and droll banter, which often provokes laughter from the audience.

A change of suit signals a change in the mood midway through the show, with the energy level rising and a more rock ’n’ roll vibe in songs like Bowie’s “Suffragette City” and Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart”. There are also a couple of rousing encores – it wouldn’t be fair to ruin the surprise for those yet to see the show, but suffice to say a few people  could no longer resist the urge to get up and dance.

Paul Capsis really is a national treasure and The Paul Capsis Revue is just the kind of cabaret I love: edgy, energetic, unpredictable and a little on the dark side.

The Paul Capsis Revue can be seen at the Festival Theatre Stage again tonight (June 14) and tomorrow night (June 15).

More Adelaide Cabaret Festival reviews

Review: Surrender to the Strangeness of Rramp

Review: Cassandra Wilson

Review: Chaplin: A Life in Concert

Review: Tom Burlinson’s salute to swing

Review: Mojo Juju

Review: Molly Ringwald

Review: Variety Gala

Review: Shane Warne the Musical

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