Review & media release: Red Dress and The Sugar Man—Marisa Quigley

Review of Butterfly Club show, Melbourne Fringe Festival 2016, by Diana Wolfe

You don’t have to know or like the music of Tom Waits (although you certainly will by the end of this show) or the extraordinary singing voice of Marisa Quigley (ditto) to be utterly seduced by this captivating beat-poetry-song-noir-cabaret show.

Everything about Red Dress & The Sugar Man interacts seamlessly to draw the audience under its spell. The venue (the elegantly wasted Butterfly Club) and its smoky lighting, the costumes, the performers, the songs, the intriguing and seductive narrative all begin to steal over you even before the 6’2” Titian-haired bombshell Quigley sashays onstage. She’s a latter-day and louche sort of Andrews Sister, a larger-than-life Jessica Rabbit with a voice like a fallen angel. The red velvet curtains part and she joins her backing band—all gangsterish older gents with rolled-up shirtsleeves, pork pie hats, world-weary attitudes and killer chops. Her two female backing singers are squeezed into tiny rock-and-roll dresses; they’re all breathy-voiced-coiffed-hair-staring-into-the-middle-distance-cool and sexy as all get-out. Kinda Jessica Lange in Blue Sky.

Quigley opens her scarlet-lipped mouth: first to begin the story of when Romeo met Rosie, then to sing the first of many carefully-chosen Tom Waits songs. And you’re gone.
She effortlessly affects an American accent, but far from grating or distracting, it only adds to the atmosphere. Her voice is deep, husky, measured, almost matter-of-fact. Playing a role reminiscent of Sam Elliot’s laconic LA cowboy narrator in The Big Lebowski, Quigley unfolds the chance meeting in a late-night coffee dive between the swaggering and dissolute Romeo and Rosie, a bad-girl-back-from-the-brink. Rosie’s clinging tenuously to her new, clean life, her St Christopher neck charm a sort of talisman to her redemption.
Quigley wrote the show (her debut script) and damn, this singer best known for her years of blues and folk performing, is a natural. Her script is playful, tantalising and pitch-perfect in terms of her wordplay, references to Waits’ lyrics, phrasing, delivery, and smooth segues into the next tune. The story of the doomed lovers is familiar and the ending, inevitable… but the journey is fascinating and heartbreaking nevertheless.
During Melbourne Fringe Festival 2016 it’s on at the suitably late hour of 10pm, down the end of seedy Carson Place off Little Collins Street. It’s only an hour long but Red Dress and the Sugar Man will leave you feeling like an extra on a 1940s detective film noir set to a Tom Waits soundtrack, witnessing the slow-motion death of a romance before it had a chance to live.
Media release for Adelaide Fringe Festival 2017—Prodigal daughter returns to Adelaide with tantalising cabaret show

Blues chanteuse Marisa Quigley returns to her Adelaide birthplace with her dark and sultry cabaret show, Red Dress & The Sugar Man.

Performing five shows from Wednesday 15th to Sunday 19th March as part of Adelaide Fringe, Red Dress & The Sugar Man is an original one-hour show that interweaves the music of Tom Waits with the modern-day story of a doomed love affair. The swaggering, dissolute Romeo and bad-girl-back-from-the-brink Rosie meet by chance at an all-night diner and fall prey to each other’s addictive allure, before drowning in a sea of regret.

You don’t have to know or like the music of Tom Waits or the extraordinary singing voice of Marisa Quigley to be utterly seduced by this captivating beat-poetry-music-noir-cabaret show. Everything about Red Dress & the Sugar Man interacts seamlessly to draw the audience under its spell. The performers, the songs and the seductive narrative all begin to steal over you even before the 6ft-tall Titian-haired bombshell Quigley sashays onstage.

With a cooking live band and lush harmonies, and set in Adelaide’s home of divine decadence, La Bohème, Red Dress & the Sugar Man will draw you in and leave you feeling like an extra on a 1940s detective film-noir, after witnessing the slow-motion death of a romance that never had a chance to live.

Marisa Quigley is an award-winning blues singer and songwriter, solo artist and cabaret performer. She lives in country Victoria, by way of Darwin and South Australia, and continues to travel to wherever her music takes her. She is a long-time Tom Waits obssessionado, and Red Dress & The Sugar Man marks her debut as a librettist. She has road-tested and refined the show to packed audiences and adoring fans throughout regional Victoria as well as the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival, and is thrilled to be back performing at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, which she last performed at in 2014.

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