Sparkle Society: Cab Suave {Melbourne International Comedy Festival} – Theatre Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What does a cabaret and a private investigator have in common? Apparently, a taste for debauchery and talent for circus arts.

At Cabaret Suave, the drinks and good times flow in equal measure and one man with an extremely ordinary, not at all sexually suggestive name is tasked with shutting the social hot spot down for good. Starring a small and hugely talented cast of performers, Cab Suave is the first full-scale production from Sparkle Society and an absolute must-see attraction at this year’s Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival.

It’s quiet and a little empty inside the tent at Reunion Park, but the modest crowd is excited and ready to be entertained. Cab Suave’s principal cast is also small, but their energy fills the entire tent with ease; consisting of Sparkle Society founding members Latonya Wigginton and Abby Kelso, and company performers Jack Wilde, Laney Mejias, and Winter Chapman, Cab Suave tells the story of a small cabaret accused of poisoning society with their raw sex appeal and Dick Johnson, the P.I. charged with shutting the club down from within at the behest of his ‘well endowed’ benefactor. But can he do it, or will he give in to the temptations of the nightlife?

The combination of circus acts and a film noir plot is a match made in heaven, made all the better by Wilde’s incredibly funny script. Cab Suave is packed full of dick jokes and suggestive motions to cater to our inner child, and despite the repetition of certain phrases and dialogue, the jokes still manage to maintain their hilarity, which is a testament to both Wilde’s delivery and skill as a writer. Outside of Dick Johnson’s monologuing, the other cast flex their acting chops through small gestures and expressions that when caught (you’d be forgiven for focusing only on Wilde in these sections, since his presence is quite commanding), elicit ample giggles from the crowd and ground Dick Johnson’s grandstanding in reality.

Much of Cab Suave is guided by Dick’s narration and perfectly inserted innuendos, but the show successfully gives each performer ample time to showcase their well-practiced skills. The acts on stage cover a variety of talents ranging from live vocal, juggling and hula hooping to aerial tricks, fire twirling, and more. Despite Cab Suave being the company’s first official production, each of the Sparkle Society performers have nearly a decade or more experience with circus arts and performing, and it showed. Truly, the show has something to entertain everyone in the room.

Wilde, as Dick Johnson, had a lot of weight to carry, providing the audience with a constant narration, acting and performance. Despite a few hiccups during his physical performances, Wilde was able to make a successful go of juggling an array of objects, including small swords, while grounded, standing on a chair, and wobbling on a ladder.

As specialists in aerial arts, both Wigginton and Kelso were awe-inspiring on the trapeze and silks respectively, effortlessly contorting themselves into incredible shapes and positions while suspended off the ground. Wigginton and Kelso also performed incredibly as a pair with a choreographed hula hoop routine that hinted (not at all subtly) that their characters were, in the words of Dick Johnson, “such good friends”.

Cab Suave’s remaining two temptresses, Chapman and Mejias were also a gorgeously talented pair. Chapman showcased their incredible multi-disciplinary talents with a Cyr Wheel, twirling/fire performances, and even a rendition of The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ on bass guitar to accompany Mejias’ sultry, soulful vocals. Mejias, who primarily performed songs throughout the show, briefly showed their other talents with a short juggling stint during the show’s finale.

Riotously sexy and fun, Cab Suave is a clever take on a gumshoe drama that has all the shimmer and star power you could want in a circus show, performed by a team of folks that have a clear and inextinguishable passion for their craft.

Cab Suave is now on at Reunion Park until the 10th of April as part of the 2022 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
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