The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra has found a winning formula.
You take the faultless musicianship of the orchestra, add vocalists – one star among them – plus a punchy brass section, some geeky, cheeky comedy from conductor Guy Noble, and voila!
Bums on seats.
The formula worked at least as well in the ASO Does Disco show – featuring songs by the Bee Gees, Earth, Wind & Fire, KC and the Sunshine Band and the like – as it did for the orchestra’s crack at James Bond last year.
On Friday evening, the orchestra produced its big, exciting, precision sound, with its subtle and meticulous strings asserting themselves during numbers like “Sunny”.
Upfront on stage, a four-piece brass section provided razor-sharp staccato and a few excellent sax solos from Damien Hurn.
This year’s star vocalist – Adelaide’s electric, soulful Charmaine Jones – led singers Jacqui Yeo, Morgan Welch and Ben Gillard through the highs and lows of disco’s sub-genres.
Highlights included enduring classics “YMCA”, “That’s the Way (aha aha) I Like It” and “Rasputin”, as well as the lesser-remembered “Brown Girl in the Ring (tra-lala-lala)”.
Yeo and Welch held their own during a smattering of solos; Gillard was fairly rigid until the second act, during which he appeared to loosen up, giving an excellent rendition of “Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady”.
Armed with disco trivia and some five-star one-liners, Noble was, as always, the hilarious compere.
Ultimately, the formula that made Bond work made this work, too. It produces a show that’s fun, impressive and exciting.
But this is disco, and it’s pretty hard to boogie sitting down.
For much of the show, Jones had to work hard to inspire a reluctant clap-along and some lacklustre hand movements from the Adelaide crowd. But by the end, almost the entire Festival Theatre audience was on its feet dancing after three members stood up, giving the rest of us tacit permission to do the same.
This is a delightful show, putting grins on many faces leaving the theatre.
The night might have been even more extraordinary if the show had been performed in a venue with standing room. And if a suitable standing venue couldn’t be found, why not give the audience the social licence to get up and dance from the beginning, rather than hoping for a triumvirate of spontaneous individuals to light the fire at the end?
Perhaps the ASO underestimated its fans – or maybe it’s the collective Adelaide audience that needs to step out of its comfort zone.
After all, it only takes three people to start the party.
ASO Does Disco was presented at the Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, on Friday and Saturday nights.
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