I travelled back out to Warrandyte after work on Saturday night to attend a one day only cabaret show from the Diamond Valley Singers, a collective with an all female cast, appropriately titled Ladies On The Stage. Feminism and the empowerment of women throughout the world are more prominent than ever these days and in the theatre community, there are many women of all different ages, races, sexualities, shapes and sizes with phenomenal talents that constantly deserve to be celebrated from performers to production team members. This is exactly what DVS set out to achieve with their third production this year, which featured the union of the company’s female creatives past and present with all new faces, renditions of numbers that highlighted both the strengths and vulnerabilities of womanhood and unapologetic personality all throughout. All this and so much more resulted in the company being more than capable of delivering on their promise of an empowering night for the ages where women everywhere got to show the world what they were made of, who they were both solo and together and that they are here to stay as prominent and important individuals in the community we love so dear.
Being a cabaret production that focused on the empowerment of women, I believe that each of the over twenty ladies involved deserve to have crowns placed on their head as the queens of the production. Our first queens of the night were the three creatives who made up the production team, Bernadette Sheedy who was rightfully seated in the director’s chair yet continued to constantly take a stand, musical director Olivia King who worked tirelessly behind the baton yet was transported right to the forefront and choreographer Charli Lewis who had her dancing shoes strapped on tightly yet was able to set the night off freely. Keeping it simple but powerful the whole night through, Sheedy, King and Lewis kept the glitz and glamour of Broadway and the West End going strong but ditched the over the top extravagance in favour of a more up close and personal presentation that formed a strong connection with the audience and added to the show’s overall message and uniqueness. Many theatre patrons tend to dismiss cabaret productions as not having anywhere near as much work or effort placed into them as full scale musical productions but all three women were quick to prove this vicious misconception wrong in prod team efforts that were intimate and instrumental by ensuring that the spirit of unity was in full swing and that the art of performance stretches far beyond the greatest of visual displays.
As is customary in my reviews for variety shows, it is difficult to mention everyone who makes up the brilliant cast individually so I will attempt to highlight their beautiful work in Ladies On The Stage through the production’s specific numbers. Starting with the group numbers, there was only the first and final songs of the night involved a vocal performance being delivered by every person on stage with renditions of This Is Me from The Greatest Showman that kicked off the evening with strength and adversity in embracing one’s true identity and ABBA’s Dancing Queen from Mamma Mia which wrapped up the night with a bang in the most fun way possible as the cast got the whole audience dancing and singing along with them. Two numbers throughout the night featured more than three vocalists and they were a haunting rendition of Mama Who Bore Me (Reprise) from Spring Awakening which followed Charlotte Moore’s solo rendition of the original number (but more on that later) that had a total of six performers and a forceful reimagining of Burn from Hamilton which saw the infidelity number in a more vengeful light over a sad and mournful one that opened the show’s second act and had a total of five performers. Finally, we had two trio numbers, an ever so sassy rendition of Candy Store from Heathers by Olivia King, Teagan Elkington and Leigh Patton and my personal favourite group number of the night, Elkington, Emma Maynard and Kylie Hanger’s hopeful take of I Just Might from 9 To 5. All six of these tunes brought their very own sense of style to the showcase’s theme that shined a light on themes such as confidence, attitude, resilience, wonder and passion in spirited and supported performances that saw each talented lady get recognised for their contributions in the beloved spotlight.
Ladies On The Stage’s five fiery and formidable duets didn’t begin until near the end of the first act but they were highly efficient in creating a message of support for fellow females with each ballad acting as an ode to friendship and the sole uptempo bop acting as a flirtatious festival for the senses. Charli Lewis and Christine Lee teamed up twice with renditions of Defying Gravity from Wicked and I Know Him So Well from Chess and together, they found a lovely blend of head and chest voice that complimented each other prominently. Both creatives would later return dueting with others as well, with Lewis teaming up with Kristina Lang for a tribute to the loved ones we’ve lost over the years in For Good from Wicked and Lee joining Emma Maynard for a yearning love song for the man they love in In His Eyes from Jekyll & Hyde, my personal favourite duet of the night, while Adele Greenwood would later pair up with Elizabeth Harvey for a soulful vocalisation on the value of acceptance within a relationship in Take Me Or Leave Me from Rent.
To me, the biggest standouts of the night were the vast yet visionary and victorious solo numbers and each soloist was able to hold the entire audience in the palm of their hands with their independent renditions of some of the most beloved theatre tunes ever written and this was a testament to the strength every woman possesses and their superhuman abilities that proudly demonstrate the famous Helen Reddy lyric, “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar”. As I mentioned earlier, Charlotte Moore hauntingly took on Mama Who Bore Me from Spring Awakening and despite being one of the youngest individuals in the cast, kicked off the production’s solos with a song that pointed out the fact that the young minds might be more advanced than the older minds ever will be when it comes to finding your own voice. Jenni Williams’ Memory from Cats was a grand return to the DVS stage after a multiple year absence that demonstrated that a woman’s true talent and passion never fades with time; Bec Muratore explored the range of a female performer’s duality and versatility with her performances of Popular from Wicked and I Miss The Mountains from Next To Normal. Adele Greenwood’s She Used To Be Mine from Waitress dived into the struggle a woman faces with declaring freedom from abusive men before finding it within themselves to triumph in the great escape; Teagan Elkington’s Pretty Funny from Dogfight discovered how a woman’s beauty should not be measured by her looks but by her personality and how we don’t need a man’s assurance to feel attractive. Amanda Middleditch was one of my personal favourite soloists of the night as through her renditions of Someone Like You from Jekyll & Hyde and Never Enough from The Greatest Showman, reminded us that women are equally or even more talented than men in the performance field and deserve the same amount of love for it. Elizabeth Harvey’s See I’m Smiling from The Last Five Years highlighted how a woman’s feelings are valid in any romantic relationship and should not be disregarded by any man who makes up half of that relationship; Leigh Patton’s I’d Rather Be Me from Mean Girls represented the courage of transgender women everywhere and how they should be their authentic selves without society trapping them into any boxes; Kristina Lang’s Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again from Phantom Of The Opera showcased the devotion and faithfulness a woman has to a romantic partner of any gender especially when they patiently wait for them to return to their arms; Kylie Hanger’s Poor Unfortunate Souls from The Little Mermaid reinforced that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and no matter what a woman’s intentions may be, they are almost always fair and reasonable and Jessicah O’Sullivan’s So Big, So Small from Dear Evan Hansen saw how a mother’s love is an unbreakable force that can never die even after their earthly departure and is nothing short of magic.
Diamond Valley Singers successfully got across their latest production’s empowering feminist message like only the greatest of female creatives can and they demonstrated how important it is to respect women not only in the theatre community but all throughout planet Earth and we will need them until the day we leave here. This is the kind of show our community needs more of as Ladies On The Stage featured so many incredible talents both on and off the stage that promoted the newest talents at DVS to royalty status, kept the older talents reigning supreme and had all talents garnering titles of queendom and I can only hope that more variety shows like this will be staged by the company in the new year and all the years to come. Special shoutout to Amanda, Angela, Bec, Bernadette, Charli, Charlotte Beveridge, Charlotte Moore, Elizabeth, Kristina, Leigh, Naomi and Olivia for all their dedicated work on the show and to the rest of the cast and crew associated with Ladies On The Stage for a pioneering display. Congratulations DVS on a beautiful season, continue defying gravity as the dancing queens you all truly are and look out world cause here you come.