Theatre Review: Lady Rizo: Red, White and Indigo

Lady Rizo: Red, White and Indigo

Sydney Festival

Spiegeltent Hyde Park North

Until January 13

Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP

So why hadn’t I heard about this amazing cabaret talent before now?

Lady Rizo, a.k.a. Amelia Zirin-Brown is presenting her show, Red, White and Indigo, at the Spiegeltent as part of the Sydney Festival.

Is the New York-based Lady Rizo a brilliant cabaret singer who is also an outstanding stand-up comedian, or is she an exceptionally insightful stand-up comedian who has a sensational singing voice?

We sense we’re in for an unusual experience when Rizo enters from the rear of the Spielegtent singing The Star-Spangled Banner with her own twist.

The music ranges from torch songs to Leonard Cohen to Cher and beyond. It’s difficult to put the music into a category, especially when she has created a skilful and imaginative combination of the 1966 Cher song, Bang Bang and the D’Angelo 1995 recording, Shit, Damn, Motherfucker, two songs that, by rights, should never have been blended. Somehow, Rizo makes it work.

My favourite is the rendition of The Ghost of The Chateau Marmont, a story about the legendary Los Angeles hotel in which John Belushi died and a multitude of other bizarre celebrity events occurred. “Chateau Marmont” is definitely worth Googling.

Between the songs comes dialogue with the audience. Rizo’s love/hate relationship with the United States is exposed through her opinions of Donald Trump, abortion laws, gun laws and other social and political observations.

If that isn’t enough, there’s audience participation. The Kissing Game has the audience enthralled. How will it end? Will she be kissing him, and if so, how? Rizo then invites a spectator to assist her with her costume change. The two go behind the translucent cyclorama, an upside-down, blurred American flag that is backlit, so we can only see their profile silhouettes. The guest sits in a chair in front of a mic while the standing Rizo changes costume assisted by her dresser. At the opening performance, the guest was a middle-aged New Zealand woman who didn’t give anything away. Rizo still managed to make the interview entertaining despite the dialogue. “When you grew up in New Zealand, did your mother make any food that made you feel good?” The kiwi considered the question for an uncomfortably long time before replying, “Er…..………”. Thud. If you’re performing improv comedy and  the other person “corpses”, it really tests your mettle, and Rizo did extremely well to keep it moving.

I don’t remember the last time I purchased merchandise at a concert, not even at the Paul McCartney event last month, but I was compelled to buy the Lady Rizo vinyl record.

Backed by her possibly new four-piece band of experienced musicians, Rizo’s style is sometimes reminiscent of 1880s Kabarett, sometimes 1930s Berlin cabaret and at other times could have been inspired by Billie Holiday and Etta James.

Lady Rizo can sell a song like no other, and my companion, who is also a professional singer, said, “She was brilliant. I can't think of any other entertainer around like her”.

Lady Rizo: Red, White and Indigo, I expect, will be a highlight of the Sydney Festival, is a show that’s well worth catching, and it’s only on until January 13.


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