Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

24/02/2024 - 24/02/2024

Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2024

Production Details

Chris and Kathy Parkin present …

Certain artists you just never miss; when they come into town, you go and see them — DAVID BOWIE

International singing sensation and comedienne extraordinaire Meow Meow is accompanied by the full force of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hamish McKeich, for a glorious night of sublime entertainment and orchestrated chaos.

Meow has hypnotised, inspired and astounded audiences globally with her solo shows and collaborations from the dive bars of Berlin to the Royal Albert Hall and Sydney Opera House.

Join the multi-award winning spectacular queen of song for a whirlwind of performance daring like no other. Prepare for Piazzolla tangos, Weill, Brecht, Brel – even Radiohead – politics, enchantment and hilarity alongside original chansons by Meow and frequent collaborator Pink Martini’s Thomas M Lauderdale.

A riotous concert in Wellington for one night only. Secure your front row seat and prepare to be razzle dazzled!

Please note: this concert will feature explicit language, sexual references and may involve interaction with some lucky members of the audience.

Tokoiti noaiho ngā wāhine pēnei i a Meow Meow. Wahine tohunga ki te whakangahau, ki te waiata, reo rōreka rawa atu, kāore i tua atu i a Meow Meow.

He whakaaturanga whakawairangi, whakaaweawe, whakatūmeke anō tā Meow Meow. Toro mai ki tēnei pūkenga, kuini o te waiata, kua whakawhiwhia ki ngā tohu whai mana mō āna mahi.

Tāpuia tō tūru e whai wāhi mai ai koe ki tēnei whakaturanga auaha ake nei, kāore e kore ka tūmeke koe i te pai. Ka tū ki Pōneke mō te pō kotahi anahe.

Michael Fowler Centre
24 February 2024 
$69.00 – $129.00 

Performer – Meow Meow
Orchestra – NZSO
Conductor – Hamish McKeich
Piano – Mark Jones
Bass – Dan Witton
Drums – Alon Ilsar
Lighting Designer – Peter Rubie

Theatre , Music , Comedy ,

1 hr 35 mins. Incl interval

Relentlessly funny, a dish of rare delight

Review by Maryanne Cathro 25th Feb 2024

“Fully Orchestrated Chaos” is the byline for Meow Meow’s Pandemonium and with that, we have been warned.

Meow Meow is the cabaret persona of Australian performer Melissa Madden Gray. That she is Australian came as a surprise to me, as much of her work is centred on London and the UK. But I would like to think that her Antipodean spirit of DIY gives her the edge that makes her so incredibly special. Actually most of my favourite UK based cabaret performers are also Australian – coincidence? I think not.

The conceit of this show is that as a cabaret performer accustomed to having to do everything herself, she is left unmoved by the presence of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and all that implies. I confess that walking into the auditorium of the Michael Fowler Centre and seeing the stage full of orchestral furniture and fittings, my first thought was, “but where is she going to perform? She takes up so much space!” It turns out this was indeed the perfect question to hold.

The show begins with musical maestro Mark Jones announcing Meow Meow onto the stage as the orchestra plays. But where is she? They start again but still no Meow Meow enters as a spotlight hovers expectantly at stage left. A panicky huddle and the NZSO decides to play a Grieg concerto instead, as Jones goes off to find out what is happening.

Suddenly from a side door into the stalls, we hear a commotion. In sunglasses and daywear, toting huge bags, enters the diminutive Meow Meow. An exasperated orchestra throw sheet music into the air! She is late! She’s not ready! She makes her way to the stage, giving audience members jobs to do – unzip this, put this bag on the stage, and when they hesitate, her response is, “In your own time,” which soon gets people moving. All the while she is singing snatches of ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’.

The chaos eventually resolves to the stage, where further undressing occurs as she gives full throat to this wonderful song. Eventually she realises that her dress is tucked into her undies (relatable, ladies!) and hoiks it down. By this point the whole audience is in tears from laughing.

A spirited performance of ‘Rinascerò’ in perfect Spanish sets a rollicking tone. And then we are to be treated to “the most beautiful love song by Jaques Brel.” In the absence of the professional dancers she was expecting, she decides to make do – it is theatre, it is magic, we can improvise. Two gents from the audience are asked to join her on stage, in the process of which we are shown that shouting instructions at people in German galvanises them quickly. These good sports then need to don masks, washing up gloves and black rubbish bags because of Covid and a string of illustrious gigs she rattles off for us to be impressed by. In their own time of course. Do they not dress themselves at home? Their role is to kneel and cling to her and stroke her leg from the knee down as she sings ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ in French and English with a couple of ‘impromptu’ tempo shifts.

Paul and James are then dismissed from the stage and we get, among other numbers, a fantastic version of George Benson’s ‘On Broadway’, the introduction of a hand held smoke machine hauled out of one of the shopping bags, Weill and Brecht’s ‘Surabaya Johnny’ and, to close the first act, an original piece: ‘In This City’. Sadly the trapeze fails to lower from above, so there is a quick regrouping and she decides to crowd surf instead. Which involves lots of organising and yelling in German at the middle-aged crowd who may have never been in a mosh pit in their lives and thought they had avoided it.  

By the interval I am sore from laughing, and so is everyone around me.

Act Two starts with every member of the orchestra entering stage right in turn and taking a bow. We cheer and clap to thank them for their complicity in this chaos and love how much they are clearly enjoying it too. Then with a huge fanfare, Meow Meow takes to the stage in a magnificent gold costume with a massive train. But it transpires that this needs to be forfeited to the rental company, so she has to remove it shielded by a cello.

Look, I can’t keep recreating this show, although the opportunity to do so, given there is no spoiler issue with a one off show, is so irresistible. I just want to give a sense of the relentlessly funny building of business upon business that creates pay off after payoff. This is a masterclass in physical comedy, even though she claims frequently, “My work is all about the text.”

In all of this, the fact that she ends up in a fairly simple white petticoat for most of the second act speaks for her ability to hold us enthralled without any need for sequins. Her rendition of Amanda Palmer’s ‘Missed Me’, Radiohead’s ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, an original piece ‘Tear Down the Stars’ performed on a tiny revolving disc turned by a crew member (because there is no revolving stage so they have to improvise) and Patty Griffin’s ‘Be Careful’ all bring a whimsical feel and a chance to really enjoy her vocal talents. These are interspersed with the chaos of the “Contractually Required Burlesque Number,” ‘Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yello Polka Dot Bikini’, and a few more numbers with audience participation, all perfectly sung and played of course.

Meow Meow is a fantastic singer. Really fantastic. She doesn’t need all the shenanigans to mitigate her vocal performances. She just chooses to offer this incredible sauce on top a delicious pudding. And the two form a dish of rare delight. Her material speaks of love and longing as much as it does of the political landscape that makes her Weimar material scarily relevant to our times.

The whole show is really a triumph over endless disappointments, and so is underscored by hope. While playing the fool, she also shows us that imperfection is our greatest strength and we can achieve anything with hard work, humour, working together, and a well-packed set of tote bags.

And possibly, with Meow Meow as President of the World. I’d vote for her.


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