Miley, Moon Unit & Me is the latest offering from songstress and theatre mastermind Tegan Jones. With this fifty minutes of story and song, Jones taps into the heart of the cabaret tradition (though the love in this heart a little less sexual and a little more familial).
In the intimate basement of the Butterfly Club, Jones introduces the audience, in spirit if not in actuality, to her dad. While, unlike the other two titular daughters, Jones’ father is not a musician, he did foster her love of music. With a list of artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Ella Fitzgerald, Demi Lovato, Amy Winehouse, and Frank Zappa, Jones’ range and interest is eclectic but clearly united by its central theme.
For the most part the show is a lighthearted, positive and loving reflection on the relationships between fathers and daughters, cast largely through Jones’ anecdotes about her own dad. This positivity sets up a secret emotional punch when Jones briefly tells the stories of singers whose fathers have been less present and less kind. Her rendition of Demi Lovato’s ‘Father’ brings at least two thirds of the audience to tears, and the sting of Amy Winehouse’s story is felt even though Jones only has the space to provide the briefest of summaries.
Jones’ voice has a musical theatre quality to it, allowing her to wring emotion from every note. While it’s hard not to wonder what some of the songs would sound like with the backing of a full band, accompanist Kay Cai wields the piano to bring out the highlights in Jones’ voice, especially on the jazz tracks. It is here that Jones’ reverence for Ella Fitzgerald turns what could’ve been a straightforward cover into something personal and heartfelt. It helps that both performers are completely comfortable on stage, which lends itself to the laid back, conversational tone of the show itself. Jones also manages to combine the requisite crowd interaction with the requisite dad jokes by asking the audience for their best corny two-liner.
Of course, you can’t go without mentioning the utterly impressive 29 songs in 7 minutes that is the show’s climax. A collection of songs Jones’ associates with her dad, it ranges quickly from classic to modern and back again (depending, as always, on your definition of those two terms).
On a personal note, it was hard not to immediately connect with a show about fathers and music that more or less opens with Frank Zappa’s ‘I am the Slime’. Who knew that was such a relatable experience? At least it wasn’t ‘Call Any Vegetable’. And, for the record, Jones’ dad was actually in the audience on the night I attended the show.
If your father has had any influence on your musical taste at all, or even if you just like to hear well sung songs and well told memories, head along to Miley, Moon Unit and Me while you can.
Miley, Moon Unit and Me is next on at Inchmeal in Melbourne. Tickets and event details can be found via Tegan Jones on Facebook.