Off to the Cabaret

A warm Saturday night.

8th December 2012.

Early Southern Summer.

Dark streets of Redfern.


Rising swell of huge orchestral wave.

Helicopter shot capturing Julie Andrews in a dainty looking pinafore doing a Marian Jones sprint across an Alpine pasture.

Big sound rises to a crescendo.

Cue Julie spinning about the field like a demented whirling dervish.

And Bam!!

“The Hills are Alive, with the Sound of Musik!”

Hang about! Back in 1965 when surfmuppet was learning his A,B,Cs off the nuns they drilled it into his slowly evolving brain that music ends with a C.

But on this night in south Sydney, the substitution of the C for the K is significant for it spells the point of departure between the bould Julie leaping around the Austrian Alps into the arms of Christopher Plummer and the Two Pauls dishing out a musical menagerie in the Redfern Alps, a mad melange of pantomime, vaudeville, loads of SoM favourites interspersed with a hit parade of Broadway and other musical numbers.

Singer Paul justifies this creative representation of the original as based on his memory of the film back in the day. Piano Paul locks in the music and it’s hi ho away we go.

Starts off at a brisk pace by taking the audience back to 1939 and a young novice named Maria…singing.

In German the opening number “The sound of music”, switch back to English and ease the sudden spike in nervous energy from the punters fearing an arthouse rendition in Hoch Deutsch with Wagnerian consequences queuing up to get out the back door.

Bong bong bong of the distant bells calling all good nuns and novices to prayer.

Nonnberg Abbey, three nuns having a chat via Singer Paul splitting his psyche into three and singing their parts of “Maria” behind cardboard cutouts of nun faces.

All nod and bounce along to the music  – “How do you solve a problem like Maria….” – while hoeing into the first few of the seven courses of the degustation menu.

Maria bails out of the convent and arrives at the home of Captain Georg von Trapp

Singer Paul introduces the seven children and the Captain, slipping on and off the characters with rapid wardrobe changes in between breaths. The Captain, suddenly starry eyed in love, warbles away with “Maria” from West Side Story.

Over to Liesl and Rolf out in the gazebo in the garden singing “Sixteen going on Seventeen”, Singer Paul back to two personalities and Piano Paul blasting away in the background on the piano and his electronic bag of tricks.

Back to Maria holed up in the Mansion during a thunderstorm keeping the children calm by singing.. “My Favourite Things”. She finishes by ripping the curtains up, kidnapping the children and hooning off down to the village for a midnight tryst with the famous inventor Otto Titsling – cue Singer Paul’s transformation into Bette Midler.

“Otto Titsling, inventor and kraut,
had nothing to get very worked up about.
His inventions were failures, his future seemed bleak.
He fled to the opera at least twice a week.”

And the sad tale of industrial espionage where Philippe DeBrassiere steals Otto’s great invention.

Now it’s back up the mountain into real SoM paydirt with…


The first three things just happen to be…

Do a deer a female deer…

The audience is press ganged into the chorus line and divided into sections – the Do, section, the Re section, the Me section, the Fa section (wherein lurks surfmuppet)…all the way up the scale and back down again.

“When you know the notes to sing, You can sing most any thing”

The whole restaurant belting it out led by the Pauline Pair.

Now the emergence of the villain – the Baroness – cue a costume change into an evil Baroness flouncy apron type number.  In true Pantomime style the audience greets her entrance with a round of hissing…unfazed she continues, “Like Alexis from Dynasty, the Baroness recognizes Maria as a problem…so she sings”…Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music.

Singer Paul does a low, atmospheric Ute Lemper like version, close your eyes and the Pitt Street Diner goes into Dr Who’s time machine back to a Kurt Weill-escue nightclub in 1930s Berlin.

Desiree, denizen of the night in fishnets and high heels, leans over and whispers into surfmuppets ear “Haben sie feuer, bitte?” Together they walk out into the night under a full moon along the Unter Den Linden to her love nest down by the banks of the river Spree…

Yea, dream on, the fantasy ends with a kick from the Missus under the table.

Next up is My Fair Lady with Singer Paul channeling Maria morphing into Eliza Doolittle via Audrey Hepburn for “I could have danced all night”. The ghost of George Bernard Shaw looks in the window and nods.

Act One ends thus, with Maria packing her bags, hefting up her ukulele and heading off back to the convent and the audience hooking into courses three and four and our two performers get a respite over the Intermission.

There’s a certain intimacy to the Pitt Street Diner, with the kitchen right there in the thick of the action, a small performance space near the door and the diners at tables lining the walls down the length of the main room. Other diners are packed in down the back and these are duly herded up the front by the friendly but firm and efficient maitre d when the performance recommences.

Meanwhile, the wine is flowing like cascades of alpine waterfalls down the back of Salzberg and the mood of anticipation rises for more mad melodies.

Act Two opens with the ringing of the convent bells and the overtune of a drink of jam and bread, takes us all back to do, do, do.

The Nuns chorus kicks in with “My Guy” and “I will follow him” ala Petula Clark/ Sister Act.

Now that Maria returns to the Captain, she launches into The Lonely Goatherd, and Singer Paul uses finger puppets to play the children. Lusty and Clear provokes a live debate between the two Paul’s as to what’s really going on with the lyrics, ending in a threesome between the goatherd, the mother and the daughter.

Captain Von Trapp, now turgid with love for Maria, sings…”Some Enchanted Evening”, Singer Paul weaving the Captain, through Emile De Becque via Rossano Brazzi from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific.

Liesl and Rolf then split up via Singer Paul donning half a Nazi forage cap combined with a blond pigtail rolling into Neil Diamond’s “You don’t bring me flowers” alternating falsetto with baritone and is that Piano Paul singing Rolf?

From there the story gallops along and the venue is transported to the Salzberg Singing Contest and “So Long, Farewell” as the two Pauls conjure up a soundscape of the children singing their parts and then exiting stage left away from the Nazi overlords and their snarling Dobermans.

And what would be the SoM, with either C or K, without Edelweiss?

Singer Paul morphs back into Von Trapp, accompanied himself on the ukulele and the audience joins in for a second run through and hey, Redfern is being rocked with a huge finish.

Piano Paul plays the announcer of the winner of the folk festival only to be foiled by the re-emergence of the evil Baronness, who gatecrashes the proceedings with a specially adopted SoM rendition of Monty Python’s “Diva’s Lament (Whatever happened to my Part)”.

The finale is the Mother Superior singing “Climb every Mountain”…

The second finale is Maria singing “Xanadu” in celebration of escaping the Nazi’s with the help of people smuggling Nuns, rounded out by a verse of the signature “Sound of Music”…

The audience want more and the two Pauls dish out the third finale, “On Broadway”…

Cheers. Clapping. Desert. Coffee. Exit into the night.

Lights from houses and apartments along the darkened street.

People inside watching TV and staring at computer screens.

The magic of live performance lingers awhile in the warm air.

Fades into memory.

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. ”

The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1

No race on the Sunday due to spending time with surfmuppet daughter Skater Girl down for a few days from Byron Bay. Had a leisurely pre-hurricane dip in the Basin at Mona Vale instead.

Heard Bilgola was gnarly!

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