Friday 25 January 2019

Father Figure - Midsumma Festival review

Appearing from back stage in a sparkling sequenced black suit cabaret artist Andy Johnston immediately gets into his George Michael homage with "I'm Your Man". Presented as part of the Midsumma Festival, Father Figure explores how Michael's music influenced and shaped Johnston's perspective on life.

From a musical performance perspective, Johnston delivers the goods. Not only does his voice give a unique sound to Michael's music but his body language and movements show how in tune he is to the songs with impressive renditions of "Freedom" "Father Figure" and Queen's "Somebody To Love", one of Michael's favourite songs.

There are great arrangements by Musical Director James Simpson, creating a freshness to these well-known songs, particularly with "Careless Whisper". Simpson expertly leads a four-piece band consisting of Anthony Chircop on bass guitar, Bryn Bowen on drums/percussion, Jonathan Skovron on guitar and himself on keys and along with backing singers Alessandra Merlo and Emily Thompon, Johnston could not have been surrounded by a better group of artists to support him.

Where Father Figure seems to lose ground is in finding the connection between the music and Johnston's life. I'm not sure if the songs were chosen to match the stories or the stories chosen to match the songs, but it does feel like it was the latter. The links are a little tenuous at times and some specificity as to how these songs are tied up in Johnston's own experiences would allow for a more seamless flow and expose his vulnerabilities further. 

At one point, Johnston mentions that his long-term relationship ended a few weeks before Michael's untimely death on Christmas Day in 2016. However, Johnston doesn't elaborate on this and it feels like a missed opportunity to delve into how Michael's death impacted him. We are living in a time where we can feel more connected to celebrities than ever before where their deaths affect us quite profoundly, and so it would have been interesting to see just what Michael's death meant to Johnston. 

For fans of George Michael, Father Figure is a great opportunity to remember the legacy he has left us. Johnston's memories of how the late pop icon taught him to understand heartbreak, love and pride - both as a gay man and a performance artist - may need to go deeper, but this is a highly entertaining night nevertheless. 

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season: Until 25 February | Fri 7:30pm
Tickets: $38 Full | $35 Conc
Bookings: Midsumma Festival

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