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Dusty Limits: Grin - The Butterfly Club

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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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The Best of British: Original Cabaret a Stand-out
Dusty Limits, Dusty Limits: Grin, Michael Roulston, The Butterfly Club, Cabaret, Original song-writing cabaret
Dusty Limits is a breath of fresh air in the Melbourne Cabaret scene. There are so many Cabaret influences in show: musical theatre, British Music Hall-traditions and Cabaret, Berlin-style.

Grin shows Dusty Limit's extraordinary talent as a lyricist and true Cabaret artist. His rhythmic perfection and classically trained musicianship enables him to deliver almost frenetic-paced and content-rich melodic tapestries. Having performed at The Butterfly Club in Melbourne and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Dusty Limits and pianist, composer and arranger Michael Roulston, treat enraptured audiences to the very best of British Cabaret.

Cabaret as a genre provides scope and flexibility for triple-threat performers. Dusty Limit is a specialist lyricist: by focussing his writing abilities in this style, the results are world-class. With his finely-tuned middle-class British accent and formal voice-training, Dusty has perfect diction, which means his rip-roaring, fast-paced, song-speak songs demand no audience-strain. Laughs flowed as this unique lyricist-singer-performer, let his biting musical satire truly 'rip'. He is an astute observer of people,and overlays mundanity with absurdity and twist. A highly skilled, old-fashioned wordsmith, Dusty paints video-visuals of dysfunctional family members clashing at reunions; sorrow and torment over lost loves; the hopelessness and commonality of drunken pub crawls and decaying hope, as our body parts age. As a lyricist, Dusty has a natural flair for simple 'talk-walk rhythms', which along with crisp word pictures, creates fluid, punchy soundscapes.

Vocally, Dusty Limits is a powerful singer: he has a broad range, and moves effortlessly between big brassy notes and super-fast song-speech that defines a cabaret style with so much lyrical dexterity. Dusty is a talented mimic, quickly and superbly changing voices and accents when characterisation so demands.

The show's style versatility is as impressive as Dusty's cabaret-brand, and all credit to pianist Michael Roulston who has spent the last 10 years collaborating with Dusty on 'Grin'. Almost every song, jam-packed with hilarious lyrics and up-beat rhyme, showcased a different musical style: we were treated to the stylistic influences of Schubert, Noel Coward, Bowie, Cole Porter and Tom Waits as well as genres with trills and references to jazz, blues and classical romance ballads. There are even 'drinking songs' that scream of British Music Hall and Pantomime. The show has soul, swag, contemporary fusion and old-school memories.

Dusty Limits, Dusty Limits: Grin, Michael Roulston, The Butterfly Club, Cabaret, Original songwriting cabaret
Dusty Limits is the 'writer's-writer'- a real wordsmith who has spent the last ten years of his creative life collaborating with the very in-demand pianist-composer Michael Roulston.
Dusty Limits is the perfect synergy between rhythm and rhyme. It is the best performance example of the different approach that lyricists and musicians have to rhythm, and how they must work collaboratively without ego, to really create something special. Dusty explained after the show: 'when you write lyrics, the rhythm needs to be quite simple, like talking. When you hand that over to a musician, the rhythm can then become more complex.'

The rhythmic way that Dusty writes is enhanced by Roulston's piano composition, as he adds jazz-theatrics and everything in-between. Roulston has the 'ear' to know how and when to 'pause', 'accentuate' and 'to stretch'. This is complex music that the audience needs no time to process. Dusty Limits is the perfect partnership between 'words and music': it is a show (and album) that will not only delight Cabaret lovers but is a rhythm master-class for composers and songwriting teams.

Mesmerising from beginning to end, the Grin cabaret-narrative contextualised the songs and painted a picture of the life and times of these two inspiring musicians. It is a rare and impressive feat to be able to hold a space that is both 'larger-than-life' and yet intimate. Dusty used the relatively small crowd (unfortunately the show clashed with the Melbourne Cabaret Festival) to his advantage, making the show personable with his amicable and easy-going audience-rapport. Make sure that you see this show at some stage through the nation-wide festival season- there is nothing quite like Grin on the Australian Cabaret scene.

Humour is sophisticated, which comes with the territory of globally connected, masterful artists. For example, the well-structured narrative introduces the letter-style song 'Dear Mr Cardinal', a poignant, personal stand about same-sex marriage. Dusty uses his own life and vulnerability to comment on contemporary society and politics.

Grin is the performance-cabaret of Dusty's album of the same name. The Dusty-Roulston duo have composed tracks that can even be appreciated as 'mood music', building stories that combine biting character insights with exquisite minor modulations. If you want to experience rhythm and hilarity at their best, check out 'Reunion': it animates families in Music Hall tradition.

Dusty Limits has both sorrow and melodrama. Gilbert and Sullivan and Rogers and Hammerstein are instantly recognisable in songs like 'I'd Rather Be Poor' and 'Don't Help the Aged'. Album title song 'Grin' closed the show and left the audience once again, in awe of the musicianship, performance experience and lyrical brilliance of Dusty Limits.
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*Donna Sue Robson was invited as a guest
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Why? To check season and information
When: 7.00pm
Where: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Off Little Collins Street Melbourne
Cost: $32 full price $28 concession
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