Concert Chamber, Town Hall, Auckland Live, Auckland

28/09/2016 - 30/09/2016

Festival Mainstage, Founders Heritage Park, Nelson

12/10/2016 - 13/10/2016

Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent, Havelock North Village Green, Havelock North

08/10/2016 - 08/10/2016

Mayfair Theatre, 100 King Edward Street, Kensington, Dunedin

03/10/2016 - 05/10/2016

Auckland Live International Cabaret Season 2016

Nelson Arts Festival 2016

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2016

Production Details

Courtesan, party girl, liar and legend. Good girls don’t make history. 

Set in Paris 1847, Songs for the Fallen is the wildly hilarious award-winning musical charting the extraordinary life of Marie Duplessis. Labeled by historians as the Diana of her time, she inspired La Traviata and Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.

Marie, at 15 years old, defied her fate in the provinces of France and moved to Paris to become the toast of the city of love until her tragic death at the ripe old age of 23.

Part-Vaudeville, part-cabaret, part-MTV, Songs for the Fallen is an invitation to the decadent final party of this notorious and captivating woman. 

Winner – Best Musical and Best Actress at the New York Music Theatre Festival

Songs for the Fallen
Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall
28 September 2016, 7pm
29 & 30 September 2016, 6pm
$22.00 | $270.00 (table of 6) | $360 (table of 8)

90 minutes, no interval
Contains adult themes

Arts Festival Dunedin 2016
Mayfair Theatre 
Mon 3 Oct – Wed 5 Oct 2016
Adult $50/$45
Student $30 
Buy Tickets

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival
Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent
Sat Oct 8th: 7:30
Adult: $45
Premier Adult: $55
Concession: $39
Premier Concession: $49

Nelson Arts Festival 2016
Wed 12 & Thu 13 Oct, 7.30pm
90 mins, no interval
FULL $47
GROUPS OF 6+ $42 pp
(Group bookings only available at Theatre Royal Nelson) 
Book Now! 

Featuring Sheridan Harbridge, Simon Corfield and Garth Holcombe

Set Designer Michael Hankin
Costume Design Lisa Mimmocchi
Lighting Designer Alexander Berlage

Theatre , Cabaret ,

1h 30m, no interval

Formidable team keeps up incredible pace

Review by Melanie Stewart 13th Oct 2016

This show is hilarious, tragic, chaotic, poignant and infinitely entertaining. Writer and performer Sheridan Harbridge has created a performance that tells the story of Marie Duplessis, a woman who rose from poverty to infamy in the 1840s. She was a Parisian Courtesan who led an extraordinary but tragically short life, dying just 18 days after her 23rd birthday.

This may not sound like the plot for a comedy but somehow Sheridan manages to transform this sad tale into a mad comic romp from the streets of Paris, to the boudoirs of her various lovers. One of the narrative placards used throughout the show reads “Party like it’s 1847” and that’s exactly the atmosphere that is created for the audience.

Early on Sheridan announces that she is going to bring down the fourth wall and never give it back. From then on she has a constant dialogue with the audience morphing from Parisian courtesan to Australian actress and back with ease, collecting audience members for cameo roles and making local references to the venue and the city.

Moments of pathos are quickly displaced by witty one liners. Language is colourful, a bit bawdy, but never offensive.

Sheridan is an exceptional performer. Her energy in conveying her role leaves you breathless. Her strong singing voice appears effortless and she delivers her lines with exhausting pace and assurance.  

Her supporting actors, Garth Holcombe and Simon Corfield, move seamlessly through a myriad of characters including Marie as a child, numerous customers, Marie’s one true love Alexandre Dumas and the house boy. They sing, dance and act their way through each scene giving Sheridan the occasional moment of respite.

The final member of the team, musician Steven Kreamer, produces all the music from the side of the stage. The music, written by Basil Hogios, ranges from Baroque to rap with a multitude of styles in between. Some of the initial tunes are vaguely recognisable; a clever mesh of styles. 

They are a formidable team, working hard to keep up the incredible pace of the performance. This is one of those shows that you wish all your friends had seen with you. You need to talk it through to remind yourself of all the incredible clever devices used to deliver this story. It is one I shall be talking about for a while and if you have the chance to see it, do so. 


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Helter-skelter spiral from abandonment

Review by Karen Beaumont 08th Oct 2016

“Girls like us make the world go round.”

Based on the life of courtesan Marie Duplessis – whose participation in Parisian high society as a lover, mistress and sometime wife of the aristocracy inspired works by Dumas, Verdi and, more recently, Baz Luhrmann – Sheridan Harbridge’s award-winning show, Songs for the Fallen is a raucous, rollercoaster escapade that seeks to address the question: “Why do we love it when sluts go wild?” while taking a hard look at the brutal side of life for these girls.  

Written and performed by Harbridge, Songs for the Fallen is a fast-paced, energetic mix of baroque, opera, rap and burlesque cabaret. At times, promiscuous and ribald, this is not a show for those who are easily offended. Tonight’s audience is not in that category. From the moment Harbridge tears down the fourth wall she has them in the palm of her hand – literally. Those who had paid the privilege of being there early to ‘grab the good seats’ soon realise the risk they have taken. Audience participation is an integral part of this performance, so be prepared to join in.

Harbridge is a consummate performer.  Her quick wit, political jibes, and satirical asides help keep this performance alive and relevant, ably supported by Simon Corfield and Garth Holcombe. The trio glide between changes of character, costume and mood seamlessly. There are times where the pace slows, where the seedier side of an abusive childhood and tales of parental abandonment come more to the fore and where, for a moment we forget that this is a comedy. Then we are off, helter skelter, spiralling down on this ride that was Duplessis’s life.

Michael Hankin’s set design is perfectly aligned to a performance in the Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent. Stained-glass windows, etched mirrors, rich red curtaining and wooden pillars inlaid with paua extend Hankin’s minimalist boudoir to envelop the audience and draw them in.  The lushness of the interior is highly complemented by Alexander Berlage’s lighting design, particularly the use of red: red glitter, red flowers, red lights, visual allusions to the tuberculosis that took Duplessis’s life. The only downside of the Spiegeltent is the lack of raised seating that presents a sometimes-limited view in a setting such as this.  

Basil Hogios’s score is intense, confident and secure. From harpsichord to rap, this is an eclectic musical carousel that mirrors the circus this show is. Allusions to the writers, the musicians and Hollywood’s fascination with Duplessis’s story run amok. Some are gentle brush strokes others are more obvious touches but in the end, this is no final party. The curtain may have fallen on Marie Duplessis yet her memory will endure.

While the show offers no definitive answers to Harbridge’s opening question, we will remember that life is not all hot chips and Tupperware, that “the greatest thing we ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” 


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Bursting with energy, debauchery and fabulous one liners

Review by Kimberley Buchan 04th Oct 2016

It is time to brush up on your French and your sexual positions, people. If you aren’t good at either, then Songs for the Fallen will help you with both. If you are lucky enough to be hauled out of the audience you may even get a one on one tutorial.

Dispensing this helpful advice is Marie Duplessis. She began life as Alphonsine Plessis in poverty in 1820s Normandy. Her beauty set her on the path to become a French courtesan. Her intelligence, personality and wit made her a Parisian favourite. She was initially immortalised by the younger Alexander Dumas, inspired La Traviata and was resurrected by Baz Luhrman in Moulin Rouge. The current incarnation that you will see at the Mayfair Theatre in the Dunedin Festival of the Arts is something else entirely.

It is hard to give the Mayfair Theatre the intimate sense of a lady’s boudoir. Sheridan Harbridge, creator and star of Songs for the Fallen, invites you into her raucously warm hearted self instead. She is as outrageously brash and ovebrimming with personality, as Marie Duplessis must have been to shine in a time and situation which crushed so many. Harbridge has huge hair, a tiny costume and a voice that is surprisingly magnificent considering that she is wrapped up tight in a corset and dying slowly of consumption at the same time.

Garth Holcombe and Ben Gerrard attend the capricious whims of both her life and her death in an array of characters that become steadily more hilarious. Holcombe narrates, provides helpful French-English translations and relishes getting in a decent scene as the novelist lover. Gerrard plays the ever loyal maid Clothilde and somehow manages to turn one of Marie’s more sinister suitors into a clown-like whack-job. The tricycle probably helps with that.

Harbridge has written a show that is bursting at the seams with energy, debauchery and completely fabulous one liners. A fair number of the pop culture references sail over the silver-haired audiences heads, but after they’ve practised their gangsta squats in front of the mirror a few times, I’m sure they’ll love them.

Basil Hogios has created music that is just as irrepressible as the leading lady. He also has pinpoint precision when it comes to the sound effects for the stage combat. 

Watching a young lady sell herself to lecherous old men to stave off starving for just a little bit longer and then achingly die of tuberculosis aged 23 seems like it would not make great material for a comedy. Harbridge and her posse acknowledge this, like the girls who fell and couldn’t get up and then distract you with a round of manic dancing, singing, clowning and glitter. So much glitter that looks so lovely in the stage lights that occasionally you forget that it represents blood.

Shane Anthony’s direction keeps the show from getting too maudlin however, with regular doses of direct address and generous helpings of self-referential humour. Come and see why New York loved this show so much and showered it with so many awards. 


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A wild and exuberant romp

Review by Uncredited online 03rd Oct 2016

The Auckland Live International Cabaret Season kicked off with a wildly exuberant romp through the territory explored in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.

Set in Paris of the 1840s, Songs for the Fallen tells the tragic rags-to-riches story of Marie Duplessis – a French peasant girl who won a place in Parisian high society as the lover, mistress or sometimes wife of a dazzling array of aristocrats and artists that included Alexander Dumas the Younger and Franz Liszt.

Written and performed by Australian Sheridan Harbridge, the award-winning show celebrates the irrepressible spirit of a life devoted to champagne and pretty things but also manages to express the pathos of a woman who was used and abused by the men who sustained her decadent lifestyle. [More]


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Enduring story told through vaudeville, erotica, satire, humour and song

Review by Dione Joseph 29th Sep 2016

“This is not how my story goes,” says 19th century peasant-turned-courtesan Marie Dupleiss. 

The muse for Alexandre Dumas’ Lady of the Camellias and the subsequent inspiration for a swathe of legends and myths (including the opera La Traviata and Moulin Rouge) is a woman whose legacy has endured for centuries – but she’s not done yet. 

It’s January 15th 1847 and in 18 days’ time Dupleiss will die of tuberculosis but before she goes she insists on one last romp through the ages, determined to burst the bubble that has elevated to her to mythic proportions, and stride forth in all the glory of her own pink champagne fabulousness.

Written and performed by Sheridan Harbridge, Songs for the Fallen is an almost perfectly timed hour-long extravaganza where cabaret-meets-baroque-meets-MTV accompanied by musical narrative, superbly orchestrated by musical director, composer and sound designer Basil Hogios. It’s a parody that invokes all the essential elements of cabaret: vaudeville, erotica, satire, humour and most importantly, Harbridge has the voice to pull it off.

She is ably assisted by Simon Corfield and Gareth Holcombe and together the trio trip through the ages offering glimpses into the lovers and loneliness that this young woman encountered in the torrid environment of Paris in the mid-1800s.  

Director Shane Anthony has crafted a highly aesthetic production that teases as much as it interrogates, and with a compelling blend of personal narrative and swagger there are some excellent moments where it mocks contemporary fetishisation of woman and the myth-making machine. But it could go a little further. Familiar gags and rude gestures are all delightful but they occasionally lack the punches, and the pauses, to really allow the moment to settle. 

The exception is when Harbridge has her solos which are exquisite in both delivery and pathos, and allow the story to offer more than the short relief of a quick turning paperback penny thriller. The final scenes are powerful and the story becomes just that bit more than entertainment at the fame and fortunes of another ‘poor’ girl – it potentially opens the space to have a bigger, and potentially new, conversation.  

Alexander Berlage’s lighting design beautifully illuminates this Parisian boudoir and Michael Hankin has created the perfect set that is functional with all the necessary frills. Lisa Mimmochi’s costume design is both saucy and classy and all elements work for the most part well together.

The Town Hall Concert Chamber isn’t necessarily the ideal space, especially as cabaret offers more holes in the fourth wall than Dupleiss’ lovers and the cramped tables offer restricted views – but those minor quibbles don’t take away from the enduring and remarkable story of a woman by the name of Marie Dupleiss.  


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