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Reviews/Cabaret/Comedy/Fringe World Festival/Music

High art is high entertainment

3 February 2020

Bourby Webster says nothing’s sacred in the clever DivaLicious show, Defying Gravity! – and it’s hilariously entertaining.

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Review: DivaLicious, Defying Gravity! ·
Sonar Room, Fremantle, 2 February 2020 ·
Review by Bourby Webster ·

If one purpose of opera is to reflect fundamental issues in humanity (love, loss, etc.), and one purpose of a fringe festival is to entertain and inspire, then DivaLicious delivers in droves with the opera-cum-music theatre-cum-comedy show, Defying Gravity!.

DivaLicious duo Penny Shaw and Fiona Cooper Smyth shot to national attention through TV appearances on Australia’s Got Talent and The Voice, though both were already known in WA music circles as talented sopranos regularly featuring in the WA Opera chorus. Since then, they’ve been nominated several times for Best Cabaret Act at Fringe World – and with good reason.

Defying Gravity! debuted at last year’s Fringe World and this year it’s perhaps even more slick and clever.

Shaw and Cooper Smyth take a traditional genre (opera), add spadefuls of personality and a very clever script (“she hasn’t been feeling herself” and “we’d like everyone to have a happy ending” being two of the more memorable lines), and weave in a wonderful array of songs from music theatre to pop and opera, all held together with a commentary about getting older that is cleverly observant and hilarious.

They’re not shy about changing the lyrics, either: “Don’t cry for me, dry Ryvita” descending into “dry vagina” at one point.

The result is a brilliantly delivered, heart warming, entertaining, laugh-out-loud performance with two women narrating a highly relatable perspective on what happens to women as they get older. It was no surprise to see the capacity crowd were mostly women over 50, in pairs or groups making a “girl’s night” out of it. Several men had come along and I’ve no doubt they enjoyed it as much as their partners. In fact, as a woman in her 40s (in denial that 50 is only a few years away), I rather think anyone who has discovered their first grey hair or wrinkle would love this show.

No song is held sacred; numbers from The Sound of Music, Evita, ABBA, Dido and Aeneas, The Pearl Fishers and many more all enjoy some fabulously funny lyrical … ahem … improvements. The quality of the singing is wonderful, excellently supported by experienced operatic accompanist David Wickham on keys, and musicians on guitar and drum kit providing a subtle but effective live music accompaniment .

This is Fringe at its best: high art yet high entertainment. Don’t miss the last two performances of Defying Gravity!.

Defying Gravity! has finished its run at the Sonar Room, but you can catch it at the Redmond Theatre, Ocean Reef, on 7 and 8 February 2020.

Pictured top: Fiona Cooper Smyth, left, and Penny Shaw are DivaLicious, and their show, Defying Gravity! is back again at Fringe World.

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Author —
Bourby Webster

Bourby Webster is the Founder and CEO of Perth Symphony Orchestra one of WA’s newest and fastest growing arts companies. She is a graduate of Oxford University in Music and the Royal College of Music and is a professional violist, lecturer, presenter, and producer. She can’t even look at a playground as she suffers chronic motion sickness.

Past Articles

  • Pure Handel

    Perth’s baroque royalty come together for this Freeze Frame Opera performance. But can you have too much Handel? Bourby Webster finds out.

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  • A musical hug

    Local chamber collective Cygnus Arioso lifted Bourby Webster’s spirits with their first post-lockdown performance.

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