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Australia's Boys of Motown, Melbourne Cabaret Festival - Review

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by Donna Sue Robson (subscribe)
Donna Sue Robson specialises in the communication- and healing-arts. Jamie Natural Health and Healing is her energy-healing consultancy. Her modalities, workshops and boutique natural products can be viewed and purchased from
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Home-grown Boys Bring Motown Back Home
Australia's Boys of Motown, Melbourne Cabaret Festival, Chapel Off Chapel
Australia's Boys of Motown are the total package. The slickness of the show- swift suit changes, sharp choreographed moves and classic 3-part harmonies created lasting and joyous memories.

Motown is one of the west's most loved musical styles, immediately recognised by its upbeat, funky rhythms and universal messages of optimism, resilience and celebration. Motown has left a legacy of timeless classics that are easy to remember and sing, and which never fail to inspire dance and body-groove moves. At this year's Melbourne Cabaret Festival, Australia's Boys of Motown brought the magic of Motown back home.

Of course, Australia's Boys of Motown, Vincent Hooper, Richard Swanson and Barnaby Reiter, sang the hits that we all love to hear but also included modern 'Motown-inspired' songs to show their own versatility and the breadth of the Motown-style. From the word 'go' the show 'pumped': the crowd were invited to sing-a-long, dance or bop in the way the music grabbed them. The Motown boys wove in-between the cabaret seating as they made their way to the stage. The opening number, The Temptation's Get Ready created collective anticipation. Designed and arranged by Richard Swanson, the show had pace, excitement, and clever mood and style changes signposted by new suits in silver-metallic, Ferrari-red and Tango-black. Australia's Boys of Motown are all-style.

Vincent, Richard and Barnaby are Melbourne boys who have spent their professional careers performing Motown hits on cruise ships. Their flawless and impeccably timed cabaret show is the result of meticulous planning, hard work and disciplined teamwork. They have created Motown choreography that is beat-perfect, matched by pitch-perfect 3-part harmonies. Indeed, their classic harmonies are superb.

All singers enjoyed moments of soloist glory, which punctuated the harmonies and provided textural contrast and intimacy. Mention must be made of Vincent Hooper's falsetto, which authenticated Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons' numbers Walk Like A Man, and Let's Hang On. A hot-tip from the cabaret grapevine is that Vincent Hooper will be given the lead role in the upcoming musical 'The Jersey Boys'. The rendition of the all-time party-favourite Oh What a Night was also riotous fun.

Richard Swanson is clearly a generous band leader. He is very aware of his natural good looks, charismatic stage presence and romantic charm. With Vincent, he descended into the audience zone to swoon Can't Take My Eyes Off You and Who Loves You?. At ground level, the pair orchestrated yet another change of pace. Barnaby, now dressed to match in a silky Tango-black suit joined them at the piano to sing the most successful Motown ballad of all-time, I'll Be There. For this No.1 hit, Barnaby assumed lead vocals and showed his class as a pianist. Tears flowed.

It was a perfect link to the subsequent 'Jackson 5 Medley' of I Want You Back / ABC / and the track that bridged the disco era, Blame it on the Boogie. Hip-shaking groove-time was back. A red-rose was extended to 'Norma' who happily accepted this iconic symbol of devotion. On stage, she 'felt the love' as the trio sang My Girl. It was a moment that every woman in the audience seemed to share.

Classics from The Supremes (You Can't Hurry Love) were no surprise but with tracks made famous by Bruno Mars, Farrell Williams and Amy Winehouse, the audience began to appreciate just how influential Motown-style has been in modern popular music. The inlay of modernity showed that Motown is timeless- not only because of its hits and heroes but because the style has continued to evolve. R&B roots run deep and rhythm, swag and chord progression unite Motown style, genre and artists.

Australia's Boys of Motown are a credit to the Melbourne Cabaret Festival, their city and their musical mentors all of whom have had a hand in nurturing such an internationally recognised, professional outfit. This gracious trio injected real 'Motown joy' into this year's festival and seemed to delight to once again play to a home crowd on home soil. After the show, Vincent, Richard and Barnaby spent a lot of time with their audience. The laughs, the smiles and the feel-good groove was omnipresent.
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Why? information and future events
When: 6.30pm
Phone: 03 82907000
Where: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Cost: $39 full price;$34 concession and for groups of six of more; $29 Friends of the Festival
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