Review: Britney Spears The Cabaret
It's Britney bitch and she’s at her best.
In front of a red velvet curtain, accompanied by only a pianist, the fading pop princess is ready to share the highs and lows of her over exposed life with an intimate audience. It’s Spears’ autobiographical cabaret, not that she’s too familiar with the form, but she has been tutored in the art by the likes of Liza. She will be singing, sans Auto-Tune and there’s a handy bottle of hard liquor in case her nerves get the better of her.
This is the wickedly funny conceit of Britney-attempts-cabaret, a show created and honed over 5 years by director/writer Dean Bryant, musical director Mathew Frank and triple-threat Christie Whelan-Browne.
At first it looks like we’re set for a send up with a smattering of songs. Not such a bad thing given Whelan-Browne dazzles from the moment she steps on stage. Standing behind the microphone she is pure Britney Jean from the bad hair extensions to the white tips of her French manicure. She pulls off Spears’ girlish southern drawl and lands the slyly witty one-liners that skewer the constructed American dream girl image. Still, it’s worth remembering Britney Spears was once fun. And it appeared she was having fun with fame and then, very clearly, she wasn’t. So about mid-way through things begin to get a lot darker.
Spears was groomed for stardom from the start. A version of her song I’m A Slave 4 U complete with baton twirling, a hoop and bit of tap harks back to her days as a beauty pageant contestant. It deliberately smacks of Joh-Benet creepiness and fills the room with a chill of unease. Monster hits such as Womanizer and Hit Me Baby One More Time are reimagined as songs of white-hot anger and sad desperation as Spears recalls a life turned upside down by devastating break-ups, the loss of her children and a horribly public unravelling. At every turn Whelan-Browne is in fine voice with a droll Frank, at his grand piano, the perfect foil for our diva.
I guess it doesn’t hurt to be a bit of a fan, but if you’re not, this still works as an affecting piece of theatre and you just might walk away with a lot more respect for the former Mouseketeer.
Britney Spears: The Cabaret is on at Hayes Theatre until 7 September. Bookings: www.hayestheatre.com.au
Check out Britney Spears: The Cabaret below