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Fine tunes and frivolity at Her Maj Closing Benefit


A Closing Benefit Concert granted Her Majesty’s Theatre a touching and triumphant send-off as the historic venue closes for a much-needed upgrade, writes Rob de Kok.

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Everybody stood up when I entered Her Majesty’s Theatre on Saturday night. They had to – it was the only way this almost-latecomer could get to F13 in an already-full house. And in those 20 mincing, apologising, sideways baby steps over dropped programs, plastic champagne glasses and evening heels in repose, and over and the feet of the momentarily disgruntled and around the posteriors of the amusingly embarrassed, I realised why “The Grand Old Dame of Grote Street” is well overdue for a facelift.

The Closing Benefit Concert – a last hurrah before the 104-year-old venue closes for up to two years for major works including an additional balcony of seating, a new foyer, and upgraded bars and toilets – was a night both nostalgic and contemporary, reverential and ragged.

Johanna Allen and Mark Ferguson (director / musical director) weaved together a group of artists that brought us trays of fine tunes and frivolity, while joint MCs and informal raconteurs Peter Goers and Jane Doyle were jam and cream within the slices of a delicious cake.

Peter’s interview with Phyl Skinner, OAM, 95.5 (not out) – original “Tivoli girl” and the Dame within the Dame – brought the audience to its feet, and not for the last time.

Peter Goers with 1930s vaudeville dancer Phyl Skinner. Photo: Kelly Carpenter

Nancye Hayes revived Sweet Charity with “If My Friends Could See Me Now” and dropped 40 years before our eyes, while Michaela Burger, Robyn Archer and Johanna Allen took on the brilliant stage band and won.

Cabaret artist Meow Meow could be abbreviated to just Wow as far as I’m concerned (don’t miss this lady if she’s anywhere within reach); Ali McGregor hit the high notes with  “Feeling Good”;  Rob Mills played both showman and patsy well (his impromptu dance with one fan was sheer joy), and Cameron Goodall recalled the rock era with hand-clapping style before conjuring up the Bard for good measure.

Cameron Goodall performed a medley of songs from the 1950s and ’60s. Photo: Kelly Carpenter

Tim Rogers’ “Damage” was a perfect, poignant lull before an all-in, feel-good, high-kicking finale in the Vaudeville style which recalled Her Maj’s days as part of the Tivoli circuit.

Let us not forget, these troupers seemed to say, what it is to have a good night out. Let’s not forget that live entertainment – that primal and potent one-on-one, living, breathing art – is still liquid gold in these days when plastic pretenders lurk in the dark of our pockets. Let’s not forget what this building owes us.

She’s resting now – dark, as we say – and several million more dollars are needed to revive her. Pass the hat around. She’s worth every cent.

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