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"Slow Burner" article (26 April 2005)

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Slow Burners

26 April 2005

American jazz singer Jane Badler follows the lives of four balladeers in Shakin’ the Blues Away at Melbourne’s Butterfly Club.

Written by Barry Lowe and directed by Robert Chuter, Shakin’ the Blues Away retraces the lives of four torch singers of the 1920s and '30s – Ruth Etting, Lillian Roth, Helen Morgan and Libby Holman.

So named for their slow-burning quality, torch songs (think Edith Piaf and Nina Storey) refer to the more tragic and mournful end of the pop and jazz spectrum. In Shakin’ the Blues Away Jane Badler explores the tragic lives that inspired such heartrending songs, offering several anecdotes about the singers lives after performing each song.

Originally from New York, Badler first established herself as an actress and appeared in television shows like Mission Impossible, Flipper, Murder She Wrote, Falcon Crest and the cult sci-fi series V. With a distinctly sultry voice, Badler’s career as a singer led to appearances on The Johnny Carson Show with Tom Jones, The David Letterman Show and with Australian performers like Paul Grabowski, Ruby Carter and Steve Sedergreen.

Since relocating to Australia, she has performed on stage in Sextet, The Great Gatsby, Big Hair in America and All Het Up.

Joining Badler on stage is acclaimed jazz pianist, Mark Fitzgibbon. A mainstay of the Melbourne jazz scene, Fitzgibbon is a past winner of the Wangarratta piano award and has worked with the likes of Dale Barlow, Bernie Mcgann, Vince Jones, Chris Mcnulty and Christine Sullivan. He previously led the hard bop Sextet, GO with Scott Tinkler and Ian Chaplin and has accompanied visiting artists such as Mark Murphy, Lee Konitz, John Stubblefield, Lew Tabackin and Charles McPherson.

Shakin’ the Blues Away audiences can expect tearful numbers like Moanin' Low, Can't Help Lovin' That Man of Mine, Body and Soul, Mean to Me, Love Me or Leave Me and I'll Cry Tomorrow.

- Alex McDonald

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Sultry songs, tragic lives

28 April 2005

 

A sci-fi legend has turned her energies to the songs of a bygone era, writes Jill Stark.

In sci-fi circles, Jane Badler is held in high esteem. Her role as an alien dominatrix in the hit American show V saw her recently named the fifth-greatest sci-fi legend by TV Guide. But in her adopted home of Australia, she's carving out a career as a distinctive jazz and cabaret singer.

In Shakin' the Blues Away, Badler brings to life four of America's best-loved torch singers in a stylish marriage of monologue and song. Famed for their haunting songs about unrequited love, the New York torch singers of the 1920s and '30s performed in dimly lit, smoky jazz clubs. They were sexy and sultry, and their music was coloured by the loss and tragedy of their own lives.

For Badler, a native New Yorker who moved to Melbourne 15 years ago, the show is a challenge that allows her to bring a bit of her American heritage to the Australian stage. "I think I can relate to the women of the 1920s and the glamour of New York at that time. It was a time I feel I could have lived in or sung in," Badler says.

"I'm probably the obvious choice, being a singer, an actor and an American. These singers (from) the Midwest came to New York, where the scene was happening in the 1920s, and I'm from New York, so it feels authentic for me to play these characters."

Badler performs as Libby Holman, Helen Morgan, Lillian Roth and Ruth Etting in an entirely acoustic show. Directed by Robert Chuter and accompanied by renowned jazz pianist Mark Fitzgibbon, she pays tribute to their lives through their songs and biographical anecdotes.

It's an emotional journey for performer and audience as Badler touches on the tragedies that affected the singers. Alcoholism, financial ruin, failed marriages and even a Mafia murder were among the misfortunes faced by the four women.

"One of the characters, her husband was found mysteriously shot and she was accused of his murder, so I intertwine that with one of the songs," she says. "I go into characters telling stories of their lives, and the songs they sung become part of the monologue. They all had tragic lives, and to me it's a lot more interesting to play people who have had a lot of tragedy in their lives than it is to play someone who is pure and lives on the surface.

"In my own life I've lived many lives and had many things happen to me, so I find it easy to connect to these women. That's the good thing about getting old - you can bring your own experience to performance. It has to be totally from your heart and totally believable. When I'm on stage I feel like I'm channelling these women, and when it works, something comes over me and I get very emotional."

THE BLUES

WHERE The Butterfly Club, 204 Bank Street, South Melbourne

WHEN Friday to Sunday, then May 5 to May 8, at 8.30pm


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