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Celebrating Two Countries: Australicana
Marc Shairman’s “Fat As I Am” and Kander and Ebb’s “Me and My Baby” were Fishman’s lighthearted way of addressing her very obvious pregnancy. Photo by Neil Cohen.
158 W. 72 Street
July 1, 2021
By Paulanne Simmons
"Australicana," which made its debut at the Triad on July 1, is Alexis Fishman’s seventh cabaret show, but it’s her first as an American citizen. The show celebrates her new status with a “deep dive into the chronicles of cultural confusion, hilarity and challenges of life as an Australican.” With James Dobinson on the piano, Fishman sang a medley of songs that are dear to the hearts of people from both countries.
Fishman began the evening with Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight’s 1985 “Living in America,” made famous by James Brown. However, anyone who thought this would be a show filled with patriotic flag waving, was quickly disabused of any such notion by the accompanying slide show picturing Americans in all their flagrant ambiguity. We are active and overweight, generous and gun-toting, fun-loving and dangerous.
Soon Fishman showed off her knowledge of the United States with Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz’s “Rhode Island Is Famous for You,” written for the 1940s musical revue, Inside USA: “Copper Comes From Arizona/Peaches Come From Georgia/Lobsters Come From Maine/The Wheat Fields Are The Sweet Fields Of Nebraska/And Kansas Gets Bonanzas From The Grain.” But she also pleased Aussies with The Angels’ “Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again,” complete with the famous (and unprintable) audience response, a chant which made the song what the Guardian’s Darryl Mason called, "one of the most famous in Australian rock history.”
The middle of the show was devoted to unofficial national anthems: the USA’s “America the Beautiful,” Australia’s “Waltzing Matilda,” and Fishman’s personal favorite for Australia, Peter Allen’s very personal “Tenterfield Saddler.” There was also a pop trivia quiz testing Americans’ knowledge of Australia. The Americans did quite well (no thanks to this reviewer!).
Marc Shairman’s “Fat As I Am” and Kander and Ebb’s “Me and My Baby” were Fishman’s lighthearted way of addressing her very obvious pregnancy. But the show took a serious turn when she acknowledged the sorrows of leaving others behind with two songs written decades apart: Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do” and Carole King’s “So Far Away.”
Although Australicana certainly highlights Fishman’s vocal strength and dexterity, it also features some really smart writing. Fishman’s patter may sound improvised, but it allows one song to follows the other in an order that makes sense both logically and musically, until the perfectly satisfying ending, the Beatles beautiful “In My Life: “All these places have their moments/With lovers and friends I still can recall/Some are dead and some are living/In my life I've loved them all.”
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