Back in the days before the digital era, there would be nothing much else really worth watching on, for example, a Sunday morning, except live sport whenever a major international event like the Olympic Games was on. I never have been a huge follower of sport, and therefore often had no idea what was going on, unless it was track and field, or swimming, rowing, cycling – that sort of thing. In such cases, it was obvious, even to me, that the winner was the one who jumped the highest, or swam the fastest, and so on. But what always fascinated me was hearing the various national anthems at the medal ceremonies. Seeing the athletes’ and their fellow countrymen and women’s varying reactions as their country’s flag was raised and anthem played before thousands of people was a highlight. I could never hear ‘Advance Australia Fair’ enough times. It stands out to me as a national anthem, considerably brighter and cheerier than a lot of the other tunes (‘God Save The Queen’ is, sad to say, one of the dreariest national anthems in the world, melodically speaking).
But it is the ‘unofficial’ Australian national anthem that closes Girls From Oz, this triumphant cabaret act, which somewhat felt like a race, given its almost relentless briskness. The final number (well, aside from an encore, which was technically an addendum rather than an encore) is certainly a different take on ‘You’re The Voice’, made famous by Johnny Farnham, who is still going strong after more than half a century in the music business. The singing was astonishing, as it was throughout the evening’s proceedings, and this particular tune was far jauntier than Farnham’s rendering.
Such is the strength of the working relationship between Kara Lane, Sally White and Ashleigh Fleming, together with their pianist, Karen Newby, and the pitch-perfect harmonies between them, that there is little to be gained in appraising them individually. They are so tightly knitted – metaphorically speaking, of course – and looked and behaved as though one entity. Scrap that: they simply were one entity. There was also a bagpipe player, whose name I couldn’t quite catch, for the very best of reasons: the sheer level of cheering and applause drowned out both of Lane’s introductions for him.
There’s a considerable attempt at asserting that not all Australians are loutish and anti-social, mostly in letting the songs speak, as it were, for themselves. It gets a little risqué at times, but the show is always tasteful, always pleasant, never in the slightest uncomfortable. Stage space being at a premium, they do what they can in terms of twists, turns and dance moves. Every so often it was like attempting choreography on a crowded suburban commuter train. This only added to the fun of it all, however, and it was balanced out by leaving the stage altogether on occasion and jutting out into the audience.
Aside from the aforementioned ‘Advance Australia Fair’ (which doesn’t feature in this show), my own knowledge of Australian music is very basic – or at least it was. Before the show it stretched only to the odd popular music tune made famous by Tina Arena, and the numbers in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical – and some of those songs aren’t Australian. I never felt left behind though, even when more knowledgeable people in the audience chortled and smiled as another song began, and the show proved a useful introduction to certain artists I had never (knowingly) come across before.
For all the singing and performing going on, there was less banter than I would have expected for a performance of this nature. Most of the filler moments were spent making general remarks, such as the love Australians have to travel (although there must surely be some people somewhere in Australia that don’t like leaving home). I knew nearly as little about the cast members (or whatever on-stage personas they may have wished to embody) by the end of the show as I did before it started.
A touch of actor-musicianship added some extra spice to an already hot performance – quite how this is achieved would be revealing too much. It’s a clichéd saying these days, but this is a vocal harmony group that could read the phone book (do they still exist?) and make it sound beautiful. An uplifting night out.
Review by Chris Omaweng
The Girls From Oz are made up of Kara Lane (Mrs. Banks in ‘Mary Poppins’, Magenta in ‘The Rocky Horror Show’), Sally White (‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, dancer alongside ‘The Tap Dogs’) and Ashleigh Fleming (Christine in ‘Phantom of the Opera’, Sister Sophia in ‘The Sound of Music’) and are joined by their northerner pianist, Karen Newby.
Kara says: “We aim to make our show attractive to anyone, it’s not just for Aussies! It’s entertaining and glamorous, but at the heart of it are 3 down-to-earth Aussie girls, so we certainly don’t take ourselves too seriously… There’ssome tap dancing, gorgeous costumes and plenty of beautiful close harmonies with our pianist joining in to create a 4th harmony for a lot of the songs as well”.