Review: O.C. Diva (Hayes Theatre Co)

hilarycole1Venue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), Jun 15 – 29, 2014
Directors: Hilary Cole, Jay James-Moody
Musical Director: Steven Kreamer
Cast: Hilary Cole

Theatre review
Hilary Cole’s cabaret show takes on the familiar structure of a singer with a microphone, and her musical director on piano. The format works well for Cole, whose voice is an absolute delight, and her ability to convey clear stories and emotions through song demonstrates real talent. As is customary, the song list is composed mostly of familiar standards, but unexpected twists are introduced for added dimension as well as comic effect. Blondie’s 1979 hit “One Way Or Another” gets a surprising mash up treatment with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phanton Of The Opera”, delivering laughs as well as an impressive opportunity to showcase Cole’s musical flair and her musical director Steven Kreamer’s prowess as an accompanist. There is also a one-woman “duet” with Cole being joined by her own impersonation of Bernadette Peters, that illustrates her admiration for the Broadway superstar, and reveals an unexpected versatility.

Direction of Cole’s performance is effective in the comic sections. Her punchlines are subtle but defined, and the jokes are well written. The young performer’s level of confidence is still in teething stages, but she manages to connect well in the venue’s intimate setting. Cole does fidget and stroll around excessively, and her eyes often withdraw into an introspective downward glance, but her passion for the stage is vibrant and infectious. There is a significant portion of the show that looks back at Cole’s experience with obsessive compulsive disorder. The performance becomes vulnerable and truthful, but also overly dark and depressing. Balance is lost here, and one is reminded of the work of Sandra Bernhard and Liza Minnelli where melancholic humour is retained when dealing with bleaker subject matter. Sadness does have a place in the cabaret, but a greater sense of show needs to be applied.

Cole is a beautiful performer, both physically and vocally. She is also a quirky personality, which justifies the choice for a show that is slightly unorthodox in tone. Ultimately, O.C. Diva‘s most memorable moments involve Cole’s singing, which proves to be much closer to perfection than she believes it to be. After divulging her anxieties about personal deficiencies, the show ends at a point of catharsis where she confesses the need for trust. It is evident to all in the audience that she can certainly rely on her talents to take her very far indeed.