Review: Desperately Young At Heart (New Theatre)

roberthofmannVenue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Sep 23 – 27, 2014
Director: Stuart Maunder
Cast: Robert Hofmann, Cherie Boogaart, Tommaso Pollio
Image by John Marshall

Theatre review
Robert Hofmann’s work Desperately Young At Heart features the singer in various guises, performing humorous renditions of jazz and musical theatre classics. The show’s title reveals the fun-loving approach taken by Hofmann, but it serves also as a warning that nothing particularly poignant transpires. The songs are linked by a performance that sees Hofmann transform with wigs and costumes, although no obvious narrative connects each incarnation. Its sense of pageantry feels at home in the cabaret format, and while not terribly original, the show does afford an amusing glimpse into the creative mind of its author.

Hofmann’s baritone voice is accomplished and confident, with shades of opera that give his singing an enveloping power. The gender diversity of his characters is a key feature of the show, but Hofmann’s liberal use of falsetto is less effective. Mezzo-soprano Cherie Boogaart’s appearance is brief but memorable. Her comic abilities are competent, but it is her voice that truly delights. Pianist Tommaso Pollio is the unsung hero of the piece, single-handedly controlling the many mood transitions with ease and flair.

The presentation tries to be loud and outrageous, but it is the quieter moments when Hofmann works with more subtlety that resonate better. Desperately Young At Heart strength is the matured skill of its performers, whose expertise is clear to see. It is an opportunity for the artists to practise a genre of theatre different from their usual vocations, and results are mixed. It is not an enormously adventurous venture, but their enthusiasm in presenting a labour of love is quite infectious.

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