Baby et Lulu… Chanteuses Abby Dobson and Lara Goodridge in slinky, tight frocks and showing some leg — as part of the 2013 Adelaide Cabaret Festival — was advertised as ‘a sassy romance in Paris’ and did not disappoint. The two Sunday-night performances were both full houses. The audience, seated café-style on the deep Festival Theatre stage, watched the performers enter against a jet-black curtain clustered with twinkling stars. They revelled in the vibrancy of the music, lapped up the saucy repartee, and settled in for an evening of fabulous French song. Abby as Baby is well-known as the front person for the former band Leonardo’s Bride and Lara/Lulu as violinist with the quartet Fourplay. Mark Harris (vocals and double bass), Marcello Maio (accordion and piano), Matt Ottignon (sax, flute and clarinet) and Julian Curwin on guitar, were the band (all members of Monsieur Camembert, a Sydney-based gypsy fusion band).
Monsieur Camembert or Mr Cheese was a theme of the show as Abby and Lara had a running banter with bassist Mark Harris on the corniness of their French accents, stating that ‘a lot of cheese is fine’. Audience members were confided in, they (Baby et Lulu) were ‘old friends’ who, on meeting up again in Paris while ‘chasing l’amour’, realised they had a common regard for mid twentieth-century French songs of Edith Piaf, Françoise Hardy, Serge Gainsbourg, Charles Aznavour, plus the more mainstream and cheesy Joe Dassin, also Cole Porter. Re-interpreters of French song were also acknowledged like Jeff Buckley’s tribute to Piaf’s ‘Hymne à l’amour’ (‘Love Hymn’) and contemporary French songwriters Camille (‘Paris’) and Thomas Dutronc, the son of Françoise Hardy, ‘J’aime plus Paris’ (‘I no longer love Paris’)
Abby and Lara began their cabaret performance with ‘Sur les Quais du Vieux Paris’ (‘On the banks of old Paris’), a Juliette Greco song that set the scene for the Paris of that epoch. Piaf’s ‘Sympathique’ (‘Sympathetic’) and ‘Je ne veux pas travailler’ ( ‘I don’t want to work’), Aznavour’s ‘Je suis amoureux’ (‘I am in Love’) and Hardy’s ‘Il n’y a pas d’amour’ (‘There is no love’) followed. All together, it was what we expected – saucy, smooth, somewhat sleazy and incredibly sad – the Paris of two world wars interspersed by economic depressions. Mid way, Abby and Lara gave performances of their own creations – Abby’s ‘C’est le top du top’ (‘It’s much too much’) and Lara’s ‘When I think of you I want to make love’ (‘Quand je pense a toi, je veux faire l’amour [avec toi]‘)… Later Abby gave a fine rendition of Leonardo Bride’s cover ‘Even when I’m sleeping’ (‘Meme quand je dors’) as a French translation. The singers had ample opportunity to flaunt and blend their artistic skills — Abby’s delicate and sparkling performances and Lara’s mellow tones and assertive-style supported by her violin.
Cole Porter’s evergreen ‘C’est magnifique’ (That’s magnificent’) allowed the band to excel with jazzy solos and choruses. The final number was to have been the classic ‘Oh, Champs Elysee’ but the audience determined there had to be an encore and indeed there was: Piaf’s hymn ‘Les trois cloches’ (‘The three bells’) was beautifully sung a capella without mikes, and followed by an upbeat ‘J’aime plus Paris’, which closed the performance with panache. There was great chemistry between the singers and band and the spectators were made to feel essential to the show. Sunday’s performances were part of an Australian tour… if possible catch those coming up on the East Coast.
See the website www.babyetlulu.com.au for details and to join the mailing list. Meanwhile, the Alliance Francaise d’Adelaide left flyers on the cabaret tables regarding forthcoming language classes — a good way to to live and learn French: www.af.org.au or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Review by Maggie Tate