Review: Josie In The Bathhouse

by Jane

A side tilt and a small breathy single laugh, that’s how Gillian Cosgriff demonstrated her “fake waitress-laugh” in her Cabaret Festival show Waitressing and Other Things I Do Well (review here).  Two very sharp and loud “ha”s, that’s how Josie Lane shared her fake laugh during Josie In The Bathhouse.  Except, Lane wasn’t demonstrating her laugh to us.  It just came out.  A lot.

Writer and Director Dean Bryant has made a name for himself in the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and the wider Australian cabaret scene through his character shows, including: ‘Tegrity: Britney Spears Live in Cabaret starring Christie Whelan, Newley Discovered on Anthony Newley staring Hugh Sheridan, Liza on an E on Liza Minnelli staring Trevor Ashley, and back again at the 2011 festival with In Vogue: Songs by Madonna staring Michael Griffiths.  Bryant also created the cabaret show I’m Every Woman, staring Ashley covering artists from Shirley Bassey to Lady GaGa, and with writing partner Matthew Frank he is a well respected musical theatre writer.

Josie In The Bathhouse is a departure for Bryant away from these heavily character based works, as Lane is ostensibly presenting the show as herself.  Without the framing device of a character, personality, and repertoire, however, this production falls down, with a heightened and inaccessible Lane presented to the audience.

High gloss and high sheen (and not just on the oiled chests of the towel boys) is the call for the evening and this, paired with the rowed seating on the flat in the Space Theatre, and a show stemmed with no less than two costume changes means we don’t have any chance to get to know the real Lane.  And the Lane we are introduced to is highly unpleasant.  Not because of her seemingly sexual promiscuity (or, in retrospect, perhaps that should be lack there of – towel boy Michel (Griffiths) was having much more luck with an annoying bit about Grindr), or her watching of porn on the hotel TV, or her love for McDonald’s after a night on the town, but, rather bizarrely, because all of these things are performed – and Lane never turns off from the character she is playing – with an air of judgement.

Lane undeniably has a power-house belt which is shown off well in the song selection and with the five piece band, yet some songs were questionable.  A re-written Business Time by New Zealand comedy duo The Flight Of The Concords isn’t nearly as funny when being sung by an attractive girl in a vintage one-piece bathing suit.  An emotional ballad seems to come apropos of nothing, unless Lane truly intended those feelings about her brother’s girlfriend’s bagged umbilical cord?

Ultimately, and perhaps most disappointingly, the show doesn’t allow us to meet the Lane we’ve seen make guest appearances on the Piano Bar stage at the last two festivals.  The bawdy, sexy sensibility mixed with Lane’s voice (and the towel clad men) is seemingly the right ingredients for a fun cabaret show.  This incarnation just misses that mark.

The Adelaide Cabaret Festival presents Josie In The Bathhouse, staring Josie Lane, written and directed by Dean Bryant.  Season Closed.

For all my 2011 Cabaret Festival Reviews, go here.