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Cabaret review: You Am I Plays Spinal Tap  

Cabaret Festival

Aussie rock band You Am I brilliantly bring tongue-in-cheek legends Spinal Tap to life – and death – at the Dunstan Playhouse.

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Smoke belches across the stage from left and right. Tension heightens. Through the mist appears a spectral figure in a flowing robe and a Viking horn hat. The crowd cheers – the show has begun. Spinal Tap lives again and before long the audience is treated to “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight”.

Firstly, to the music itself. The band was outstanding. Drummer Rusty Hopkinson presided over a full metal kit and executed spectacular rolls, but they all ended on time. Andy Kent was simply perfect as the hard rock guitarist with the solo runs that were silky and piercing at the same time. The rest of the band rocked hard and tight – totally together.

In fact, after six or seven songs I began to wonder: Are they better than Tap? But comparisons, of course, are odious; and, sacrilegious thoughts aside, there is no doubt each band is perfect in its own particular odious way.

A guilty pleasure swathed in the respectability of satire …

You Am I played this Cabaret Festival show with a huge visual display screen that helps the telling of the stories of the songs, especially in “America” and the band’s Summer of Love and Flower People phases. Thankfully, it must have been deemed there was no need for explicit backdrop imagery to explain the famous “Sex Farm Woman” or the iconic “Big Bottom”.

I was about to note that the visual display had to carry the telling of “Stonehenge” without the famous miniature papiermâché henge stones when, praise the lord, a single Stonehenge replica did descend imperiously from above stage – nice one.

The crowd clapped along, especially to “Big Bottom”, with a group of girls a couple of rows in front of me swaying left to right – as much atmosphere as you get in the static confines of the Playhouse. All around there were smiles as people took in the ironies and double entendres of the song, of the whole program of songs, really.

There’s nothing like being on the knowing end of the send-up of something ludicrous, but at the same time being able to engage in your secret love of that ludicrous thing. A guilty pleasure swathed in the respectability of satire: such is the timeless appeal of Spinal Tap.

To be honest, singer Tim Rogers struggled at times to match the range and power of a Michael McKean. He was left pretty much alone to contact the audience and the show could have done with a tiny bit more showmanship, but the best of that was saved for the end.

Indeed, what Tap evening would be complete without an exploding drummer? Yes, with a rupturous sound effect and a burst of pink smoke he was gone. But will You Am I take it one step further and have him return from the dead, to survive The Curse, and to participate in one last reprise of “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight”? To find the answer to this important question, there are still two more opportunities to see You Am I Play Spinal Tap.

You Am I play Spinal Tap is at the Dunstan Playhouse again tonight and tomorrow (June 9 and 10). Read more InDaily Cabaret Festival stories and reviews here.

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