Review: Mitchell Butel’s Killing Time

by Jane

Mitchell Butel was the talk of the Piano Bar on Saturday night at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, so I was absolutely so excited to be seeing the Sunday night performance.   The whisper was Saturday night trumped Sunday, but the show I saw was pretty damn great for a second-best.   I am wondering if people think I’m not genuine in all of these great reviews: can they all be that good?  Yes they can, and yes they are.  There is truly a stellar line-up of people putting on stellar shows.

Mitchell Butel kills time looking suave on couches.

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“I bet you never thought you’d hear Pink Floyd and Dolly Parton together, did you?” No, I really, really didn’t. And I certainly didn’t think it would sound that good! With a small jazz ensemble: musical director Darryl Wallis on piano, Tim Bowen on double bass, and Steve Todd on drums, and new arrangements by WallisMitchell Butel’s Killing Time is an exciting exploration of songs from a variety of sources.

While it is a show that linearly traces songs over the course of 24 hours of a day, Killing Time doesn’t follow a narrative plot; rather, through and between the songs,Butel allows us into stories about his life, whether related to a time of day, or time and growing older in general.

These stories are also accompanied by quotes and poems about time and aging, with Butel giving us another insight into his personality. Butel constantly engages with the audience: you can just tell how much fun he is having up there, taking the time to share his life with us.

Musical highlights of the show included Pete Mill’s “Way Ahead Of My Time”, Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning”, and West Side Story’s “Tonight” mixed with “Out Tonight”from Rent. A truly varied collection of songs written for very different voices, yet with Wallis’s jazz and blues based arrangements, Butel’s voice fits perfectly into each song.

Not only a splendid voice, but a charming actor, Butel brings a character and a bit of a journey to every song. Supported by wonderful lighting in the Space Theatre, Killing Time is a very polished production, but one which still feels completely natural, and a little bit delightfully under rehearsed: lyric flubs and all, Butel laughs and takes it in his stride.

For me, the true highlight of the show was the encore, where Butel sang with just the piano, unplugged. In a time where auto-tuning has become so acceptable, and in fact almost expected on musical recordings, there is something wonderful about knowing that the voice you are listening to is the true voice. Untouched, unaltered, and beautiful.

Killing Time left the audience with some brilliant music, an insight into a man we all enjoyed getting to know, and, perhaps most importantly, ensured none of us will ever be able to listen to the theme song to Play Schoolin quite the same way again. A beautiful show.

The Adeliade Cabaret Festival presents Killing Time by Mitchell Butel and musical director Darryl Wallis. With Tim Bowen on double bass and Steve Todd on drums. In the Space Theatre.