The framing device for the show are our hosts Miss ‘Moon’roe, a lunar take on Marilyn, and Sunny- her piano-playing musical sidekick. The duo tell stories, sing a few songs and do a bit of crowd work. They then throw to themselves in different characters thanks to some speedy costume changes (I don’t have a credit for costume design, but they are all fabulous!). Each character performs a different act and then we return to the hosts in between.
It’s a solid enough structure and a bit more inventive than classic variety acts which would usually have a separate MC, or would simply be the performers as themselves doing tricks throughout the show. It really does give the feeling of a full menagerie of different disciplines and styles despite there only being two performers on stage.
While the form is interesting, it is also challenging and Oakley and Cordery do not meet all the demands they’ve created for themselves. Oakley’s hoop act is flawless, and Cordery’s silks aerial act was mind-blowing- but compared to those two segments, most of the show falls pretty flat. The performers are clearly consummate circus performers, but the “variety” parts of the show feel like they’ve come straight from a Cruise Ship in 2005.
The comedy is generic and largely involves having a titter at some mild nudity, or an unsubtle innuendo. The songs have fun premises, and Cordery’s piano accompaniment is solid, but neither of the pair are amazing singers and so the musical numbers never quite get the audience fully onboard. The crowd work is hit and miss.
It begs the question for me as to why this pair of talented performers have put all this fluff around their obvious primary skill sets? Perhaps it is because a cruise ship gig is exactly what they’re aiming for, and this is the type of show those producers demand. If so, then fair enough. I can’t help feeling that the pair are capable of a much more high calibre and engaging show than Monroe’s Happy Hour. Afterall, the audience for NZ Fringe is generally younger and craving something new and unique. We are far from the grey-haired occupants of the Norwegian Spirit.
All-in-all Moonroe’s Happy Hour is indeed a variety show, with some spectacular acts and likeable performers. With a better focus on the duo’s strengths, it could be a very successful show for a broad range of audiences. But in my eyes, it hasn’t quite found its feet just yet.
Monroe’s Happy Hour: A Variety Spectacular runs at Te Auaha until March 11th. Tickets are available through the Fringe Website.