BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

06/06/2013 - 08/06/2013

Production Details

Sink into a sultry evening of smoky jazz as Karen Anslow and Her Fellow Sinners take to the BATS stage as part of the Jazz Festival on Cuba, performing songs from their jazz cabaret shows Sophisticated Sinner and 27.

This show will be a chance to revisit the best songs from both shows ,as the selection blends the two shows in a celebration of the early diva who didn’t need to wear hotpants to be sexy and songs from members of the ‘27 Club’,  reinterpreting them in an exciting new style.  

The sensuality and seductiveness a la Eartha Kitt and Peggy Lee are fused together with reinvented versions of Nirvana, Janis Joplin and other immortal members of the 27 Club to create a musical celebration of love, lust and longing.

Featuring: Karen Anslow, Sue Windsor, Alistair McLeod and Alan Burden
Musical arrangement by Tane Upjohn-Beatson

6-8 June, 8.30pm
BATS Theatre – Out of Site Cnr Cuba & Dixon Sts
Tickets: $18/15
Bookings: www.bats.co.nz or 04 802 4175

Proud to be part of the Wellington Jazz Festival on Cuba 2013.

Vocalist: Karen Anslow
Drums: Alan Burden
Double Bass/Guitar: Alistair McLeod
Keyboard: Sue Windsor
Arrangements by Tane Upjohn-Beatson
Lighting: Uther Dean
Sound: Warwick Donald
Publicity: Brianne Kerr

Could be more than background lounge music

Review by Maraea Rakuraku 07th Jun 2013

Pouring herself into the most gorgeous tight-in-all-the-right-places dress, Karen Anslow brings a bit of glitz to Bats Theatre on a crisp opening night.  She’s a character and the drama she brings to her face and body as she’s performing … Well, it’s obvious there’s some training there. 

After googling researching, I learn her background is in opera and musical theatre.  That explains the elocution and perfect pronunciation which is just a little too clean for me.  I also see singing solo has been a long-held aspiration.  Good on her for making it happen because she can hold a tune and definitely has stage presence but I find myself waiting for the raunch, the promise of the dirty – the musical celebration of love, lust and longing. Because it’s one thing to say that’s what you’re doing, it’s quite another to express it.

I really want to love her and the performance, having been raised on a diet of Jazz and Blues greats – Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Satchmo, Glenn Miller and Sarah Vaughan – who owned their interpretation of songs, and recognising some of the numbers raises my expectations. There are moments: Life of the Party, shows the variation of her voice; Whatever Lola Wants has just the right amount of sexy minx humour and entertainment. Said entertainment provided by a gentlemanly audience member.

Starting off with Eartha Kitt, I want to Be Evil is perhaps overly ambitious vocally but the sass and sashay is pitched just right.

The second half of the programme, ‘27’, focuses on songs by artists who died aged 27.  They include Jim Morrison, Robert Johnson, Brian Jones and Amy Winehouse.  This concept, while kinda cool, seems a little too rehearsed; a little too comfortable.  I even find myself questioning some of the song choices. Of all the Amy Winehouse songs about heartbreak, why choose You know I’m No Good (which incidentally is recorded in the programme proper English like, “You know that I’m no good”). How about, I know love is blind? With the right amount of tease ,ich Anslow has in bucket loads, she could totally pull it off.

As a hater of The Doors my ears just shut down when Riders on the Storm starts, and again with The Rolling Stones’ Paint it Black. When some of the singing is off pitch during the last number, Smells Like Teen Spirit, I feel bad for Anslow.  She is very funny though and I’d like to see that switched up and exaggerated more.

During the performance, I wanted double bass guitarist Alistair McLeod to bust it out (c’mon man you’re already cool, it’s a double bass for goodness sake). He only smiles towards the end of the night. Prior to that it’s all mad concentration and I wonder if the musicians are even enjoying themselves.  At one point it does seem a little high school/ college band at ball night. 

Though, without getting into the technicalities of it, the musical arrangements (Tane Upjohn-Beatson) are reasonably sophisticated. The drummer Alan Burden in particular – he’s got some skills. It doesn’t feel like they are there solely to back up the singer yet it does feel like they are constrained which could be due to the venue or lack of set design.  Why isn’t there set design? Effort has gone into the lighting (ups to you Uther Dean), so why not the set?

On reflection, a more intimate bar setting may suit this better as opposed to a theatre space.  The humour and sex Anslow brings to it takes guts, and hats off to her for going for it, but something would need to be switched up for this to be anything other than background lounge music. I don’t mean that harshly because background lounge music has its place but with all the elements already present for this to be something other than that, I hope they take whatever steps are necessary to do so, if it’s what she/they want.


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