“It if don’t fit … don’t force it or you’re gonna make your momma mad.” The 1939 ditty by Barrel House Annie reinterpreted by the gorgeous, grandiose, garish, gifted diva provocateur. All hail YANA ALANA.
When casting around for companions to come with me, way too many said no, mostly after viewing the video on the Festival website. Quoting one of my friend’s text exactly “I pity you having to sit through that dear Judith”. Boy is he wrong. Couldn’t be wronger. So I am out to spread the word, to proselytise in the name of Yana.
Do not miss this show! YANA ALANA COVERED is cabaret at its brassy, brilliant best. Some kind of bastard child from Meow Meow and Bette Midler in her heyday.
Our hostess in the Magic Mirrors Tent in the Meriton Festival Village is the brainchild and alter-ego of comic actor Sarah Ward, winner of a dazzling array of accolades including Helpman and Green Room awards. Yana previously appeared naked except for a tetch of blue body paint but in this particular incarnation she is covered. By a stunning array of seamless costume changes … sort of.
And covering a wonderful range of songs.
Let’s talk about the music because the comedy is too clever, too continuous and too unclassifiable to explain. The show begins with a surprisingly emotional Bassey-belted rendition of ‘History Repeating’. This behind a curtain on which are projected overtly political images. Her silhouette is big on the screen but the voice is bigger. It’s a killer set of pipes with soaring soprano highs and rich, almost mezzo, lows.
COVERED is simply a music aficionado’s wet dream. Waits and Bowie are there in the set, all in Yana’s unique style. The Beatles ‘Strawberry Fields’ begins as slow, down tempo ballad, gently morphing into an upbeat, rock pulse from the band while our Yana interprets the lyrics with a long-noted jazz improv feel. Then our divine chanteuse transmutes again to reflect the perfected art of screaming in Joy Division’s ‘She’s Lost Control’.
In another mutation, Jonathan King’s ‘Everyone’s Gone to the Moon’ is comic but wistful, which is a pretty neat trick coming on the back of a vagina/shoe bit which is hilarious! There is a lot of hilarity actually. Early on our Diva vows to use only other people’s words and all the interlude stylings are lyrics from songs. From Andrew Lloyd Webber through Zappa to Eminem with the urge to call out names like Alanis Morissette as we recognize the quotes tongue bitingly attractive.
Even the band gives the concept a go as they hold the stage when Yana goes out of view for one of those costume changes. It is a thrill to hear these superb musicians. THA PARANAS (Bec Matthews, Louise Goh and Tamara Murphy). When Yana stands still in a fluffy white coat and small white followspot for ‘Big Science Lyrics’ (Laurie Anderson), the stick-hit bongos counterpoint with the opulent double bass and delicate keyboard to complement the song so beautifully. Similarly Nina Simone’s ‘Lilac Wine’ is both spoken and sung in a still state and the longing reaches out in voice and instrument.
She can obviously do it but standing still is not Yana’s raison d’etre. And as the self-absorbed, self-referential boobie action and energy to spare of ‘Suffragette City’ (Bowie) hits you just want to stand up and shake your booty! That’s after one of those seamless costume transitions.
So just in case you missed it first time … do not miss this show and there are only 2 more in the Festival . Or you’re goinna make your momma mad and Yana is not a diva to be messed with.
YANA ALANA COVERED is playing Sunday 8th January and Tuesday 10th January as part of the Sydney Festival 2017.