Reviews/Cabaret/Fringe World Festival

Anne Millar and David Wickham – a very French affair

27 January 2022

Chanteuse Anne Millar takes us on a one-woman journey to 1930s Paris, and Erin Hutchinson finds it is one for the avid Francophile.

Illusions – A French Cabaret, presented by Anne Millar and David Wickham ∙
The Sewing Room, 26 January 2022 ∙

Anne Millar, a classical singer who has 35 years with the West Australian Opera under her belt, has partnered with local wizard on the keys, David Wickham, for this cabaret with heart.

Illusions – A French Cabaret follows the journey of a lovesick Aussie ingénue and sees her develop into a mature woman, all through the lens of her romantic encounters in 1930s Paris.

The whole concept of the show seems to be built around the song, Illusions, originally performed by Marlene Dietrich in A Foreign Affair in 1948, and this idea works well as it focuses on the older woman reflecting on her experiences.

Millar’s song choices include some (old and new) numbers you’ll recognise. There were some amusing terrible pronunciations displayed in Je Ne Parle Pas Francais (a German pop song) and the Nat King Cole tune Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup.

Although I cringe when opera singers attempt pop, I enjoyed the change of lyrics to assist in learning French grammar in Voulez Vous Couchez Avec Moi, and Millar’s rendition of Non, Je Nes Regrette Rien has to be the best I’ve heard, with amusing playfulness added to this classic number through the worship of French pastries and the waving around of multiple baguettes.

After the interval (put in for a costume change), things start well with some Bernstein, but then the show takes a dark turn. For a one-hour show, perhaps we didn’t need Yvette Guilbert’s or Marie Dubas’ songs about domestic violence or narcotic addictions, so some Piaf and Porter to finish was a more uplifting selection.

I hadn’t been to The Sewing Room before, so I was pleased to see what a groovy little underground bar and performance area it has. It reminds me a lot of Downstairs at The Maj, but unfortunately it has similar sightline issues in spots and a few of us had to bob around in our seats to see the English surtitles projected for some of the more obscure pieces.

The venue also still has a way to go in regards to the lighting and sound operation to enable an experienced and operatic voice like Millar’s to get away with less support from the microphone for better balance in the space.

Millar clearly put a lot of care into the creation of this cabaret, and I hope she continues to develop it. The lady in front of me, apparently a fluent French speaker, seemed to really enjoy herself, and a handsome gentleman relished Millar’s attention in a moment of audience participation.

I found it a little long, a little loose and overall not quite my cup of tea, but if you are more of a Francophile than I am, you’ll find something to like.

Illusions – A French Cabaret continues until 27 January.

Pictured top: Anne Millar in ‘Illusions – A French Cabaret’. Photo by Sebastian Mann

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Author —
Erin Hutchinson

Erin Hutchinson is an actor, singer, theatre maker and teacher who is passionate about local arts. Whilst she wishes she could still be a ninja on the monkey bars, she’s content to enjoy a turn on the swings… easier to still hold a glass of wine.

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