Desperately Young at Heart

Cherie Boogaart and Robert Hofmann in Carmen. Photo by John Marshall

Award-winning cabaret DESPERATELY YOUNG AT HEART is a welcome visitor at the Sydney Fringe Festival. Its crossover between the genres of music and comedy results in an hilarious and rewarding night’s entertainment.

Innuendo and skilfully crafted lyrics fly about as quickly as the necessary costume changes. Male and female characters parody singing students, vocal teachers, community singers and religion in the setting of a conference for mid-career vocal teachers. Robert Hofmann brings us each guest speaker or singer to share their individual tensions and desperate personal natures.

Hofmann especially wows us with complete portrayals of an Irish nun, German vocal-coach-turned-psychologist and a Christian liturgical singer who really gets the congregation going. Musical support comes from pianist Tommaso Pollio and mezzo-soprano Cherie Boogaart. The latter is worked over in master class and introduced to the habits of seduction by Hofmann’s Carmelite nun persona.

Quotes from Australian operatic identities add to the material and are well placed. Moments of audience participation both on stage and singing along in seats work well and the audience obliges happily.

This show’s motto song, Sinatra’s ‘Young at Heart’, is brought to us sincerely amidst the hectic comedy, showcasing Hofmann’s significant vocal talents.

A clever final segment mashes up popular Schubert classical vocal music with a risqué pop style anthem, delivering a unique and full-on climax for the yet unfulfilled on stage and in the crowd. Disco ball effects are included.

DESPERATELY YOUNG AT HEART has much to offer the musically trained and lay person alike. I found myself smiling and laughing from start to finish, often feeling truly blessed to be there. This show runs for approximately 50 minutes without interval.

The show’s final performance at Newtown’s New Theatre is tonight at 9pm. The show then moves on to play at Melbourne’s Butterfly Club as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival between September 30 and October 5.