30 Something: a cabaret show for our times

Despite having known each other for years, this will be the first full production together by Phil Scott (left) and Catherine Alcorn (right). Photo: Phil Erbacher/supplied.

Drawing on their years of experience, talent, creativity and friendship, Phil Scott and Catherine Alcorn are bringing an exciting – and highly relevant – new show to Sydney, writes John Moyle.

Cabaret as an art form in Sydney is an ever-changing landscape that ebbs and flows like a river: it’s either in drought or in flood.

This form of entertainment has been around since the 13th century but in recent times here in Sydney, it has suffered greatly with the closure of venues, cancellation of shows and the lack of support from the major arts agencies.

With an extravaganza of music and wit, the Phil Scott and Catherine Alcorn production of 30 Something is about to change the doldrums into excitement as they bring their new show to venues across Sydney and its outer areas.

“Cabaret in Sydney is not as widespread as it was when the Cabaret Convention was held at the Sydney Town Hall. It was much more popular when that was on,” cabaret artist Phil Scott said.

Even though Scott and Alcorn have known each other for years (Alcorn was artistic director at cabaret venue Slide and Scott is a well-known practitioner of the art, best known for the Wharf Revue with Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe) this is the first full production they have mounted together, and after a history of stops and starts, they can’t wait to hit the bar drinking.

30 Something is an immersive piece of theatre that Phil and I have written and it’s a big party with us and the audience,” co-writer and performer Alcorn said.

The show explores current issues such as war, an epidemic and an economic meltdown through the prism of the 1940s. Photo: supplied.

Scott’s 40-odd year career makes him immediately identifiable to Sydney audiences. Alcorn, too, is well-known for her shows, which have been performed at many interstate and overseas cabaret festivals.

Her triumphant US show, The Divine Miss Bette, for which she garnered the award for Best Cabaret Production in the 2018 Broadway World Awards, is regarded by many cabaret reviewers as being the best Midler tribute ever mounted.

The premise of 30 Something is set in New Year’s Eve heading into 1940, with many of the current issues of the pandemic, economic meltdown and war lingering in the background.

“Beneath the exterior of it being a really fun and glamorous and bohemian show, we have interwoven the story of me and Phil,“ Alcorn said.

“We’re talking about Sydney and Australia through a 1930s lens, and when we were doing our research, we realised how similar the time was from then to now. What the city and the world now is going through … it hasn’t necessarily changed or evolved.”

Musical maestro Scott has taken songs of the period as the driver of the show (Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin), in addition to adding work from contemporary artists including Kylie Minogue, Lady Gaga and Coolio.

Alcorn on stage in 30 Something. Photo: supplied.

“The music is either from the period or some contemporary songs that have been re-imagined in period style,” Scott said.

“That period [of music] was just so fantastic and it is a pleasure to play and sing.”

A powerhouse performer, Alcorn is also well versed in the art of production details, and during the height of the pandemic, she and a team of producers launched The Reservoir Room, a virtual venue from the Paddington Town Hall that kept 45 of Sydney’s live entertainment workers employed.

Meanwhile, Scott has had to put the Wharf Revues on hold until later this year, when the team will be doing at least one more round of shows.

30 Something will play the Glen Street Theatre, Belrose on Saturday, 9 July, 2022, with subsequent local shows scheduled through July in Nowra, Paddington and Parramatta. For tickets, visit roadcasepresents.com/tickets.

John Moyle is the associate editor and special writer for the Sydney Sentinel.

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