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John Thorn's Background Boy - The Butterfly Club

Home > Melbourne > Cabaret | Comedy | Music Venues | Theatre
by Tricia Ziemer (subscribe)
Television Producer & Photojournalist with a passion for sharing adventures in and around Melbourne, Australia. See my www.youtube.com/user/tmztvaustralia for other adventures. Subscribe to me so I can tell you of upcoming fab things not to miss.
Event: -
Comic Cabaret with Maestro John Thorn and Michael Dalley
The Butterfly Club Melbourne Lt Collins Street
The Butterfly Club


Well, having never been to "The Butterfly Club" before, I felt like I had fallen down the rabbit hole and entered my own version of "Alice in Wonderland".

1920 songs
Nic Nacs - I wonder who does the dusting


Intimate Theatre
I found where the White Rabbit went


It is a zany little club with a wonderful atmosphere and knick knack heaven.
Champagne and Beer served and you can take it into the theatre
Sparkling while you watch the Show


The staff were very attentive and a glass of very nice sparkling was whisked into my hand, post hast, as we were ushered to our seats. It felt like one of those first dates, where you sneak to the back of the theatre for a bit of .well, let's not go there. The intimate theatre was full to the brim and once John Thorn started, you understood why.

John Thorn Guys and Dolls Bonnie Thorn
Maestro John Thorn


He started off with "1920's" cabaret melodies. And if Fred Astaire is known as the twinkle toes of tap, then John Thorn should be acclaimed the twinkle fingers of the ivory keys. His jingles were light, bright, quick and true. I was amazed as his musical history unfolded about how many songs he was famous for writing for other singers as the "Background Boy".

This wonderful hour long show was a shining testament
to his illustrious career spanning 30 years of working in the background of the finest Australian Cabarets. Remember those cabaret greats such as Meow Meow, Bob Downe, Spontaneous Broadway, Pastel Vespa, and Miss Dorothy, all showcasing, John Thorn's melody genius. This comic show was brought together by Director Sally Bourne, with words and music by John Thorn, and with additional Lyrics by Chris Keogh and Henry Lawson. John was accompanied by David Abiuso on Double Bass and his daughter Bonnie Thorn on Trumpet, Violin and Vocals.

The Traveler Henry Lawsons Poems Chris Keogh
We all sang along to "The Traveller"


I learned part of John's musical inspiration goes back a long way to when he did his "Honour Thesis" on George Gershwin. He was even able to travel to Washington to see Gershwin's original manuscripts and he was astounded to see they were all melodies. And this show brought together many of the his best comic pieces already staged in Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris, Cleveland, Toronto and Calgary. I think my favorite comic piece was "Lower your Expectations". Although I found I was chuckling all the time. The hidden gem of the show was Bonnie Thorn, John's daughter, who has a beautiful voice and I would hope goes on to try out for the X-Factor. It is sweet and breathy and unique to anything I have heard before. Apparently, she recently had a lead role in her school play "Guys and Dolls" which went on to tour and it was obvious why.

Part of the show contained musical ballads inspired by Henry Lawson's poems, put together in a cabaret show "Looking for Lawson" which recently was a huge hit at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. And when John played his melody of the "Scots of Riverina" by Henry Lawson, I don't think there was a dry eye in the house.

In my interview with John after the event, I asked, "What was the inspiration behind this solo show Background Boy". He replied, "I have always wanted to sing some of my songs at some stage in my own voice and this was an wonderful opportunity at the Butterfly Club as I was already there with Michael Dalley's Show".

Then I asked, "Why songs of Henry Lawson's poems?"
John responded, "I took my father on a road trip called "Retracing the Steps of Henry Lawson". I knew nothing about Lawson and there was a big debate among the traveling group about who was better Lawson or Patterson. So I thought I would set a few of Lawson's poems to music as my kind of offering for the trip."

Tess O'Loughlin of Tess O'Loughlin Publicity shared, "Composer, producer and musical director, John has won numerous awards for his work, including the 2006 Melbourne Green Room Award for Mark Trevorrow's show 'It's About Time' as the musical director and the 2011 Best Cabaret at Melbourne Fringe Tommy Bradson's show 'Pirate Rhapsody Mermaid Requiem' as composer."

"The great thing about John Thorn's lyrics is that you really feel he's lived them" Paul Kooperman, Australian Stage.

"Anybody looking for high-quality cabaret need look no further" Anthony Vawser, Stage Whispers

And even though "Background Boy" was a weekend event, and disappointingly too short of a stage run, John is still performing with with Michael Dalley as he brings his hits of the Adelaide and Melbourne Cabaret Festivals to The Butterfly Club, through till the 8th of November at 8:30 pm. Thorn also plans to enter "Background Boy" into the next Adelaide Cabaret Festival. And you have another chance to catch Maestro John Thorn at the Trades Hall in a show called "Spontaneous Broadway" where he and other greats improvise music on the spot starting Nov 18, 2015.

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*Tricia Ziemer was invited as a guest
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Why? Because you know you love Caberet
When: 8:30 pm
Phone: 03 9663 8107
Where: The Butterfly Club Melbourne
Cost: $32 but group and concessions
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