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At Last, Cabaret Is Back In Town

by Ron Lee, CSP

The Last of The Red Hot Mamas Hayes Theatre Sundays until March 2.

Sonya Kalish was born in the Ukraine into a Russian-Jewish family that migrated to the United States. In 1907, Sophie Tucker made her first theatrical appearance singing at an amateur night in vaudeville establishment. Tucker was made to wear blackface during the performance; her producers thought that the crowd would razz her for being "so big and ugly." Often, performers who don’t have matinee idol looks will revert to comedy, and Tucker’s wicked and risqué humour, big personality and unique voice set her on the path to stardom. She inspired, among others, Mae West, Carol Channing, Roseanne Barr, Ethel Merman and Bette Midler, who pays tribute to Tucker in her concerts.

Now that you’re up to date with Sophie Tucker, Marika Aubrey, together with her three-piece band in The Last of The Red Hot Mamas, tells the parallel stories of her own great grand-father and Tucker who apparently were born in the same year a few kilometers apart and also died in the same year.

Aubrey opened with a big song called Hello My Baby, which immediately reminded me of Michigan J. Frog in Bugs Bunny.

Even though she died in 1966, Sophie Tucker’s inspiration lives on.

Then came the stories and the songs that had every audience member absolutely riveted.

Aubrey’s incredible singing talent is spine-tingling and her characterizations, as her own parents, herself, Sophie Tucker and Tucker’s parents, demonstrates that she has acting skills to match.

I had a look at YouTube to remind me of Sophie Tucker’s personality and singing style, and Aubrey’s vocal skills compare more than favourably with those of the woman who inspired this latest show.

Even though she had won awards, I hadn’t heard much of Marika Aubrey, so it was a delight to discover this immense talent. Apparently, the idea for the show emerged from a coffee chat between Aubrey and Kate Ceberano who were both in the recent production of South Pacific. I’ll be waiting for them to come up with a show about the life of Ethel Merman, which Aubrey could easily carry off.

Two things that I want to achieve in this review are to congratulate The Hayes Theatre Co, which occupies the theatre that was formerly the home of The Darlinghurst Theatre, for staging cabaret in Sydney, and to recommend that you book yourself in to enjoy and appreciate the enormous talent that is Marika Aubrey in The Last of The Red Hot Mamas.

When he's not writing for Sydney Chic Ron is busy being the The Corporate Ninja.

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