theatre / “Brett and Wendy: a love story bound by art”, Sydney Festival, Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, until January 27. Reviewed by HELEN MUSA.
“BLANC de Blanc” is the very finest of dry champagnes, but it’s also the name of a glamorous adult-only show coming to the Fortuna Spiegeltent, a kind of mini-festival on Civic Square that looks set to become an annual event.
It’s not just a wine, we are told, but “a place where the champagne sparkles, eyes glimmer, the salacious and delicious combine for an evening of unparalleled pleasure.
“A blend of vintage glamour, high-end spectacle and titillating acts to infatuate, illuminate and delight.”
It is also said to feature “big moves, great tunes, lots of skin and more than a few surprises”.
In reality, “Blanc de Blanc” is a showcase spectacle of cabaret and acrobatics that will, nightly, head up a broader program of comedy, music and dance by performers as varied as Dan Sultan, Trevor Ashley and Gretel Killeen.
It is the brainchild of choreographer Kevin Maher and director Scott Maidment, who developed their working method while working together on Madonna’s “Rebel Heart” album tour.
“CityNews” caught up with Hollywood-born Maher by phone to Los Angeles. He’s danced with Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Lopez and George Michael. He’s choreographed music videos, television performances and tours for Justin Bieber, Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, and he’s coming here.
Uniquely for a choreographer, Maher’s background is in architecture and he says: “I don’t think I’ve come across anyone else who took that path – my first love was for buildings, I went to a private high school then to college to study architecture.”
But at age 18, Maher realised that his studies involved more computer programming and little creative activity, so he looked elsewhere.
“I pushed myself through physically to become a dancer, but it came full circle when I became a choreographer and director – architecture taught me how to put a piece together,” he says.
He moved east, worked at cleaning mirrors in Broadway and got access to shows, but soon went to community college and immersed himself in dance classes, starting with hip-hop, ballet, jazz ballet, African and Latin.
“I threw myself into anything with movement so, effectively, I had five or six years of training and small jobs,” he says.
Maher passed videotapes of his work around, asking if choreographers were wanted. He taught, put on shows and staged little charity events.
Then 10 years ago as an assistant on the first New Kids on the Block reunion tour, its choreographer was so busy that he had to drop out and Maher became the new kid on the block. Since then he’s directed and choreographed six tours of the show.
He continues to do everything related to movement and has even been choreographing K-pop videos from afar in a “really cool process” that involves working live with dance artists in LA then sending the visual results to a choreographer in Korea.
The “Blanc de Blanc” idea came when he and Maidment were working with Madonna. If Maher was free he’d visit Maidment to “connect with ideas, to test how they could work under pressure”. In one number he transformed a ’50s slapper into a female warrior. Maidment was impressed and offered him a job.
Maidment came up with the idea of “Blanc de Blanc”, saying: “Champagne opens your eyes, you go to have champagne and everyone gets excited, just the name gets people excited… just pouring a glass of champagne is classy – Scott and I played with that concept.”
To them, champagne glasses were always flutes, suggestive of the male organ. “CityNews” suggested googling the Marie Antoinette coupe variety.
Maher joined Maidment, who doesn’t choreograph, but founded the production company Strut & Fret, which has brought the show to Australia.
“I showed him some music that I saw fitted very well,” Maher says.
“I showed him a possible opening song and dance number that a friend had composed and I told him: ‘I think this is cheeky, naughty, and sexy enough to set the tone’.”
Maher got to edit songs used in a “Moulin Rouge” track, and they constantly experimented, switching numbers around.
“Scott brings people in who are ideas-driven, he knows he needs to get brand consistency,” he says of his colleague.
Maher never really tells us exactly what we’ll see. But he does report that when they went to London, Madonna saw it once or twice and absolutely loved it – and to him, that should be good enough for us.
“Blanc de Blanc”, headlining the Fortuna Spiegeltent season, Canberra Theatre precinct, April 26-May 20. Bookings to canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700.