Review: Funerals with Phoebe

2 years ago
Aidan Johnson

Have you ever considered what songs are played at a funeral? Have you ever wanted a happy song a yours? Music is an art form that can truly move people, and is unique among the arts in its ability to console and soothe – ideal for a funeral. Enter Phoebe, a classically trained Australian born in Japan, who works as a funeral singer. Niche? Perhaps. Powerful? You better believe it.

Funerals with Phoebe is an interesting cabaret, and one that really should have had a bigger audience (it certainly would make a stronger atmosphere – no matter how enthusiastic and energetic the tiny crowd was). It is an exploration of funeral music – some classics that are played, some more unusual ones, and those Phoebe (the singer) would want to see played – either at her funeral or at others. It was an interesting premise for a show, and potentially something to examine further.

If there is one thing that can be taken away from the show – contemplation aside – it is Phoebe’s voice. Classically trained opera singers are definitely a breed unto themselves, and when they get into their schtick, they can convey all forms of emotions. The voice was almost out of the show’s league – the pianist was good (and it is hard following a vocalist, so well done), but Phoebe’s singing was just stunning. There was an audience member in tears after one of the songs, and every song ended with loud applause.

Unfortunately, this level of excellence didn’t quite translate into the acting. Whilst it felt energetic, and she maintained a level of professionalism that even professional actors sometimes lack, it still felt a bit wooden at times – the pianist’s acting certainly was. That being said, Phoebe managed to deliver all her points, and the script was well written – as were the musical arrangements, so well done more generally.

The costumes were excellent – they got laughs when appropriate, and helped give each song additional character. They helped also emphasise just how eclectic the music variety was – although there were no originals, the music was a very broad range, from Catholic music through to Disney pop songs, and each of the songs needed a little character or costume to help pull the audience in the right direction.

Overall, a powerful voice (hope to see her again on the stage – though hopefully not in her other professional capacity) carrying the day in a relatively strong cabaret. Although the acting was not supreme it was simply the limits of musicians stepping out of their original zone of performance comfort perhaps, the show had enough well crafted costumes and amazing singing to make up for it. For those who like thinking and cute, intimate shows with amazing vocals, look into this show.


Funerals with Phoebe is on at 5:30pm at the Butterfly Club until 30 September 2018 as part of the Melbourne Fringe. Tickets are available from the Butterfly Club website or the box office.

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