VK's Comedy & Blues Bar, 60 Dixon St, Wellington

18/02/2016 - 20/02/2016

NZ Fringe Festival 2016 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

I Lip-Sync For Him is a fully lip-synced cabaret from award-winning playwright and lip-sync artist Sam Brooks and multi-instrumentalist Adam Ogle.

This gay love story features songs from the likes of Kylie Minogue, Nicki Minaj, Ani DiFranco and Carly Rae Jepsen.

Auckland Most’s Exciting Playwright 2014 – Metro Magazine

VK’s Comedy and Blues Bar, 60 Dixon St, Te Aro, Wellington 
8:30pm, 18-20 Feb, (50 min) 
BOOKINGS: fringe.co.nz TICKETS: $18/$15/$15

Theatre , Musical , Cabaret ,

Almost no need for the actors

Review by Ashleigh Pope 19th Feb 2016

There are two reasons people like karaoke and lip-sync battles. One: to be the centre of attention; or two: to vicariously be the centre of attention through their friends as they watch them bask in the glory.

I Lip Sync For Him is billed as a fully lip synced cabaret telling a gay love story through songs. It stars Sam Brooks as the protagonist, Sam, and Dan Veint as his love interest, Dick.

We first see Sam Brooks performing a musical-theatresque lip-sync for his on-stage romance. His cheeks are tense, lips pursed and eyebrows high as he glances from left to right, up and down for no apparent reason – like Annie stepping out onto the streets of NYC with Daddy Warbucks for the very first time.

The initial song indicates the beginning of a relationship between the two lovers which develops through a series of lip-synched pop songs and pre-recorded dialogue. Parts of the dialogue are well-written and relatable, such as when Sam casts his critical eye upon his soon-to-be lover, commenting on his acne scars and other imperfections. The relatable moment comes when Sam is able to look past these imperfections, and vividly describe his infatuation, acne aside – a bit like going in for a second whiff of sour milk.

The actors also lip-sync the dialogue. Sam speaks over the backing of a female voice; the reasoning behind this puzzles. Is he appealing to the audience’s more familiar experience with heteronormative relationships by attempting to conform to traditional gender roles in turn criticising our inability to follow a gay love story? Perhaps not, but the reason is unclear all the same.

At first the lip-synched dialogue seems an interesting dramaturgical choice, and I try extensively to see the metaphor. However, I soon begin to lose faith as the mouthing of the words to the pre-recorded audio track morphs into the erratic mouth movements of a drunk ventriloquist puppet. The mouthing appears to be prompted by the track which acts as an audio ‘cue card’ seemingly reminding Brooks of his lines.

The dialogue and blocking do not sync consistently either and the description of his lover, being one who walks on his toes, is not reflected in the way the supporting actor carries himself. Dan Veint is reminiscent of Green Day’s Mike Dirnt and is well cast as the ‘playing it cool’ love interest, often stealing the scene with convincing lip sync delivery. To his credit, Veint does manage to learn his lines and deliver them with conviction.

The songs that Sam performs are a mix of well-known pop songs and lesser known hits. The whole thing feels like a concert for your favourite band after they’ve released an album you haven’t listened to yet: we respond to the songs we know, while struggling with the unfamiliar non hits. The songs are romantic in nature but how they progress story is not clear until the final two songs. The more engaging songs are performed with the exaggerated expressions of big arm gestures, pursed lips and strutting around the stage, at times reminiscent of a drag show, without the costumes. 

The concept of the backing tracks and dialogue could work better as an improv piece if the actors had never heard the backing and were actually responding to it. Otherwise, with such limited rehearsed blocking, there is almost no need for the actors. The show works as a concept but is let down by an unrehearsed appearance. Improved stage action and more confident dialogue delivery would make it far more enjoyable. I see big potential for Sam and Dan and very much look forward to seeing what they come up with next. 


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