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Review - Mama Alto: Torch Songs: beauty, humour, and good music

Mama Alto: Torch Songs

Presented by Mama Alto in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse

New Farm


The show finishes November 26 at 8 pm. Duration 60 minutes. Bookings:

It is always a joy to head out for the night in search of something new. Especially at the theatre or cinema, or indeed, anywhere the performing arts are to be witnessed. So when I gathered up my spirits and readied myself for an act I had never seen before, I went in to Wonderland Festival with an open heart and mind, as one should, ready for something exciting.

And excited I was. Mama Alto: Torch Songs was just the ticket for a balmy Friday night. Clutching said ticket, I waited patiently for the lights to dim and the diva to appear. At first, came Miss Chief, pianist extraordinaire to Mama Alto, who cheekily took off her heels at the piano and placed a miniscule piece of paper in front of her.

I was astonished that she was able to play most of the songs for the night from memory and with a skill that spoke volumes of discipline and emotiveness that created a charming ambience and an accompaniment that soared through the space. When Mama Alto herself appeared, it was a breathtaking moment, for here towered a being bedecked in a beautiful black sequinned dress, reminiscent of divas of yore.

Mama Alto, a self-proclaimed “non-binary trans femme person of colour” with a somewhat self-deprecating sense of humour and a quiet, calm voice spoke volumes for what she was about to do. Preparing the audience in an intimate, gentle and courteous fashion Mama Alto guided us into her world.

When she began to sing, that world fell away and all that was left was a raw, and sultry, piercing voice, soft piano and a bluesy soul. The repertoire for the night was mainly jazz and blues with a smattering of pop in the form of Simon and Garfunkel.

Each song suited Mama’s voice well and displayed the dizzying heights she could achieve, but without pretension or arrogance. With humorous snippets of dialogue and banter between pianist and vocalist, the audience felt comfortable. There was even banter between audience and Mama which made the night seem more intimate, the way a good cabaret should be.

Mama Alto: Torch Songs was a night that I will be hard-pressed to forget. It was an experience rich with beauty, humour, and good music. It harked back to those fabulous cabarets of the 30s, 40s and 50s and I will most definitely keep watching the space to see what Mama will do next.

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