Article Title:Hell Man!
Author or Credit:Larry Jenkins
Published on:19th August 2007 - 10:42 am
Story ID:4770
Text:Helen Medlyn “Hell Man” is advertised as the last of Helen Medlyn and Penny Dodd in their surefire cabaret forms. The others in the series have, over the years, explored the love thing from many angles, but this one tops them all in that it involves a sex change for Medlyn, which she handles with total ease. I suppose years of operatic “trouser roles” have made it possible for her to ape boys and men, but her characterisations in “Hell Man” go way beyond any stylised and clichéd stances, mannerisms or facial expressions. In fact, until she opens her mouth, which is soon after she comes onstage, she looks startlingly like a young hopeful songster, bounding on with a youthful and slightly nervous air, pacing about during her first song with a panther like grace, always with the audience in the palm of her/his hand. I mention opening her mouth, because at first, “Come Fly with Me” up an octave and in an obviously feminine chest register is a bit of a shock given the entrance, but as we do, we adjust. The first dozen songs, all very male-ego inspired, are delivered with an air of (over) confidence. The un-named He is on the make, sure of his success. Sondheim's “Pretty Women”, Jeremy Nicholas's “I can't remember her name” and the wonderful “I'm Hip” (Frishberg/Dorough) are just the right choices to evoke the sexual predator on the prowl, but soon he meets Her, also un-named, and the angst begins. Things get more serious, and not only Dylan (“Emotionally Yours”) but Schumann (“Ich grolle nicht”) appear to mellow the tone and let us know that He has fallen in love, been hurt and may or may not be ok. But the real height of the evening is rooted in despair. Handel's “Cara sposa” receives the most shattering performance possible, I was totally wiped out by Helen Medlyn's approach and her ability to switch from the cabaret singer to the diva. It was quite frankly some of the most beautiful singing I ever heard, and here I must mention how much the whole evening was made richer by Vera Thomas's lighting design. Here we were suddenly in noir mode except for one red chair, and all evening long cues were spot on, and moods reflected with imagination. Then, clearing the air, as it seemed, came Mercer's “One for my Baby” deliciously delivered as a guy with a need to hit AA, the shocking (even though we've heard it lots before) “Masochism Tango” of Tom Lehrer, and the sad but true “Oldest Swinger” of Ed Pickford. “Handy Man” as an encore returned Medlyn to her sex and the comedic chanteuse genius which she possesses more than anyone else in the world, perhaps. It sent the punters wild and they were rewarded with “The Nearness of You” in unparalleled Medlyn style, which is the crème de la crème of entertainment on offer in New Zealand at the moment. Dodd is always the underpinning – dazzlingly virtuosic, supremely sensitive, and secure. It's a true partnership, and anyone who hasn't seen this show is the poorer for that fact. There are shows this weekend, so get down there and enjoy! Larry Jenkins - 19th August 2007    
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