note: entire contents copyright 2015 by Sheila Barth
Her thick, black curly hair is wild, her body sleek. She’s an international sensation who has wowed audiences on screen and stage, in Asia, Australia,Europe, America, and other far-flung nations. She’s the new brand of vaudevillian female performer, who enjoys interacting with her audiences, and, overall, they love it, too.
Appearing at Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre through Oct. 24, the multi-award winning, Australian-born, unpredictable cabaret comedian-songstress-actress bumbles down the aisle, as she drags a huge trunk, enlisting unsuspecting theatergoers to help her lug it onto the sumptuous multimedia, light-festooned stage heralding her presence - the one and only Meow Meow. a.k.a. Melissa Madden Gray.
Shedding her coat, and fluttering with her clothing, selecting individual volunteers to unzip her jacket and other garb, post, the proclaimed “post-modern diva,” chatters away incessantly, rapidly. She sings a little, chats some more, while enlisting three more male volunteers to join her on stage, tightly surrounding her, and following her commands - whatever they may be.
She’s a whirlwind, constantly in motion. Meow Meow has a wide vocal range,versatile song style, and speaks several languages. Instead of her running chatter and pandering to the audience, we wish she’d complete one song, so we can appreciate her amazing talent. She’s fabulous in an Edith Piaf-style song - as far as she gets- until she starts anew with antics.
Her voice becomes marvelously sultry in a German medley - (think Marlene Dietrich)- an artistic throwback to a bygone era- until she distracts us with more cabaret antics.
Meow Meow’s set and lighting (kudos, lighting designer Alexander Nichols and set-costume designer Andrea Lauer), are also sensational. Big, bright, blinking, glowing, strands of lights change hue. Pre-show, a gorgeous, huge gilt frame graces the stage with fashionista video shots of her, in color and black-and-white.
During the show, elegant curtains and scrims change the tempo and mood, while pianist-music director Lance Horne and three musicians valiantly carry on, in view, on stage.
Meow Meow’s crew busily bring on and remove props as she frolics and prances about, changing her costumes on stage, seamlessly shifting from one mood to another.
Her greatest number is a mirror image segment with her alter ego, whom Nikka Graff Lanzarone performs with impeccable synchronicity.
Meow Meow seems to love her audiences and can’t get close enough to them. She comes into the audience, passing out silk flowers for theatergoers to throw on stage. She sits on laps, chats with individuals, prancing around. Theatergoers don’t know who she intends to grab and bring on stage next. Her volunteers were all willing participants, though; and her surprising, famous finale leaves Bostonians uplifted. Actually, it’s Meow Meow who’s elevated, with her Project Adventure-like stunt, body surfing through the audience as they lift her prone body above them, then, in reverse, back on stage. Who knew she’s the crowd-surfing queen of song?
Meow Meow isn’t really a performance. She’s an experience, the type you want to say you’ve had once in your life.
BOX INFO: One-act, 90-minute show, starring Meow Meow and company, through Oct. 24 at Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre,.221 Tremont St., Boston:Oct. 22,23, at 8 p.m.; Oct. 24, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets, $25-$75; group, senior, student discounts. Call 617-824-8400, visit www.artsemerson.org