As Sydney slowly starts to re-open and theatres begin announcing their socially distanced programs, Genevieve Lemon and Max Lambert take an opportunity to reflect on lockdown with their favourite cabaret hits. Covering loneliness, baking, podcasts, and predictions for the future, Welcome to the Masque was a reintroduction to the simple love of performance in an altered reality.
While live-streaming to audience members in their homes, Riverside Theatres Digital also welcomed a few audience members in person which added greatly to the chattering cabaret ambiance. To open Lambert regretfully informed those watching that Lemon had been delayed so he would be grating out some classic 70s television jingles to get things started. This then crumbled into a rather odd bit where Lemon stumbled onto the stage dressed as a disgruntled homeless person, belligerently railing against social distancing requirements. While it certainly got the production underway, it remains unclear what tone this character was supposed to establish for the night or what the punchline was exactly.
Despite the rough entry, Lemon’s warmth and casual enthusiasm created a comforting sense of the theatre community that has laid dormant since March. The set channeled a backstage dressing room with props, ladders, discarded coffee cups, and a lighted mirror, which furthered the feeling that this was a performance for the theatre in-crowd. Throughout the night Lemon swapped out wigs and an impressive array of face mask options to convey the shifting atmospheres with the help of Lauren Proietti and mask master Darren Yap.
The selection of songs, strung together by Lemon’s musings about lockdown hobbies, ranged from Bette Midler’s “Friends” and Carole King’s “So Far Away” as anthems of the isolation of 2020 to reminiscing about entertainment’s heyday with “Sophisticated Lady”. A stand-out performance came from a shortened version of “Guess Who I Saw Today” by Nancy Wilson which Lemon sung with a smooth and easy sway. Later in the program Lemon and Lambert paid a special tribute to songwriter John Prine who passed away in April due to coronavirus complications. In his memory they performed a strong rendition of “Hello in There” before transitioning to a celebratory original “Going Back to Cabaret” as a summary of the many ups and downs of this year and their rosy outlook for the future.
It’s saddening to think of the members of the theatre community who won’t be returning to the theatres when lockdown comes to a complete end whether due to financial losses, health issues, or the simple passing of time but, at least for this cabaret, the music plays on.
Welcome to the Masque ran and was live-streamed at Riverside Theatre on August 23rd
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