Hotel - A Cabaret

TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland

11/06/2011 - 12/06/2011

Bruce Mason Centre, Auckland

02/07/2011 - 03/07/2011

Glenroy Auditorium, The Dunedin Centre, 1 Harrop Street, Dunedin

14/10/2010 - 16/10/2010

Production Details

The Festival is thrilled to welcome back the great diva Helen Medlyn and her piano accompanist Penny Dodd with their newest show hôtel

Helen Medlyn and Penny Dodd expose glimpses of the dark deeds and decadence within the deep plush and deadened hush of the hotel room.

Four women embrace the restlessness, transience and welcome anonymity of the pensione for different reasons. Telling their stories – the glamour girl, the call girl, the proprietress, and the murderess – reveal the heated passions that lie under their cool exteriors.

Our cabaret divas unpack suitcases of strong, sophisticated, seedy and sexy songs. And all imbued with a whiff of Europe, a touch of class…and maybe just a glimpse of trash.

Accompanied by Penny Dodd on the piano, Helen Medlyn will play all four women, breathing life into their diverse existences, stripping them bare of their armour, uncovering what’s hidden beneath. 

hôtel will be hugely popular with Dunedin audiences as was their 2002 cabaret show hellbent.

Glenroy Auditorium
14, 15, 16 October 2010


Phenomenal talents

Review by Joanna Page 03rd Jul 2011

Takapuna’s Bruce Mason Centre was freezing last night.

They could have turned up the air-conditioning, but the chill in the air couldn’t compete with the two women who were on fire on stage. 

Hôtel is a cabaret that tells the stories of 4 women who live in a run-down hotel – an aging glamour girl, a call girl, the dilapidated hotel’s owner (who is fairly run down herself) and a woman-scorned murderess. Helen Medlyn is all four, accompanied only by the brilliant pianist Penny Dodd.

It’s obvious from the outset that Medlyn and Dodd are relaxed and natural with each other. They’ve worked together for 25 years and their separate roles merge seamlessly into one on stage as the run through everything from Sondheim to Joni Mitchell. 

In anyone else’s hands it could have come across as a vocal skite of the ‘Look how many brilliant singing styles I can nail” variety; in Medlyn’s it is glorious. She sings effortlessly and when she combines it with her characters’ physical traits there’s no mistaking the fact that she has a hell of a lot of fun. As a result, so does her audience. 

Simplicity is the key to this show’s allure. On stage there’s just Dodd at the piano, Medlyn, and a very covetable chaise longue. Even the costumes are the Sara Lee variety; a celebrity’s fur is shrugged off in the dark to reveal a call-girl’s trench.

Despite not being familiar with every song the duo chose for the characters, I was drawn in by Medlyn and Dodd’s phenomenal talents. As neither a pianist nor a singer, I watched with a tinge of envy wishing I could perform so easily. 

The hotel in Hôtel isn’t somewhere I’d choose to stay, but with characters and a performance like that I would have happily hung out in its lobby a lot longer. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


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Consummate showmanship in theatrical equivalent of a compilation tape

Review by Nik Smythe 12th Jun 2011

Dressed in modest black, virtuoso Penny Dodd plays impeccably on the shiny black grand piano at stage right. Enter Helen Medlyn in her luxurious long grey fur coat and black gloves, all smiles to greet us, and the show begins. 

The premise is ostensibly an insight into the lives of four female characters that inhabit the rooms in a small rundown hotel. It’s a curious enough means of conceptually linking what is essentially a lovingly executed collection of favourite show tunes hung on a string of loosely contrived narratives.   

The fur-clad diva is just that – an ageing glamour girl given to taking desperate measures to recapture her lost youth and allure. Her bittersweet journey from the limelight to wherever washed-up divas end up is described through an eclectic set of musical numbers, culminating with one of the few I in my philistine experience am familiar with: ‘Where Will I Be’, from Chess, which lyrically matches the faded starlet’s own existential dilemma. 

The subsequent protagonists each have their own tragic tales to impart through song, in their own outfits: the swinging party girl in the simple black trench coat, driven by circumstance to the world’s oldest profession; the forlorn but pathetically hopeful hotel proprietress in her mildly exotic heavy red gown; the vampish trollop in the long black lacy number, on the run having spitefully murdered her otherwise betrothed sugar-daddy and likely to end up as a Chicago backup singer. 

The tunes range from well known through recognisable to obscure and presumably span many decades, possibly a century. It comes across something like the theatrical equivalent of a compilation tape of Medlyn’s favourite songs, given first-class treatment by her own exuberant skill, energy and humour.   

As I said, the whole hotel scenario is secondary to the songs. If you’re looking for any real depth of story you won’t find it here; to link the songs a more archetypical approach seems inevitable. If you’re looking for eclectic, entertaining theatrical music played and sung with consummate showmanship, Hotel – A Cabaret will satisfy. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Mutual engagement and reciprocal energy

Review by Jennifer Aitken 15th Oct 2010

In Hôtel, Helen Medlyn and Penny Dodd, Medlyn’s long-time collaborator and pianist, expose glimpses of dark deeds, decadence and desire within the deeply sparse and deadened hush of the hotel room.

Medlyn presents the audience with four women as she embraces the restlessness, transience and anonymity the hotel room offers. Telling their stories through songs intercut with snippets of verbal contextualisation from Medlyn (out of character) – the glamour girl, the call girl, the proprietress and the murderess – reveal their heated passions.

Whichever character she is presenting Medlyn is not far away, her cheeky grin revealing just how much she thrives on our applause. Not only is Medlyn unfalteringly engaging to watch but she is clearly and equally engaged with us. Her eyes glimmer with joy and her mouth curls up uncontrollably at the end of every number, Medlyn survives on our applause. She appreciates us just as much as we appreciate her. 

The energy that flows between performers and audience is reciprocal. We are fuelling their performance with our energy and they are ensuring our complete enjoyment of this event with theirs.

Medlyn is an instinctive stage goddess. Her skill is undeniable and her love of her craft evident. After the first of two encores she reveals that ‘we (Medlyn and Dodd) love it when you don’t leave!’

This virtuosic pair is such a privilege to watch. Having worked together for over twenty-five years their performance is instinctive and mutually supportive.

Everything about Hôtel is polished. The space is sparse and the set is minimal but perfectly atmospheric. Medlyn and Dodd do not need to clutter the space, their energy and passion fills it for them.

Medlyn’s costumes also sing to us, telling us so much about the characters that the narration of their stories can be kept to a minimum. Even her costume changes are diverse and unobtrusive. Everything is done in character, even when Medlyn is speaking and moving as herself she is as much of a character as the ladies in her stories.

Each performer takes a moment for themselves, Dodd performs Serge Prokofiev’s ‘Dolente From Visions Fugitives’ as Medlyn changes backstage and Medlyn recites ‘The Waltz’ from Dorothy Parker as Dodd looks on enthralled. This pair works together flawlessly.  

Medlyn and Dodd are absolutely, unquestionably and instinctively perfect. This show does not fail to make you grin from ear to ear and your hands sting as you clap harder than you ever have before. I will be grinning at the thought of Medlyn’s infectious smile for days. 

If it is my duty to do anything in my life it is my duty to ensure that these ladies receive full and appreciative audiences for the rest of their run.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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