Venue Review: Anita’s Theatre, Thirroul
Songs in the Key of Motown: Anita’s Theatre, Thirroul, 4 July 2015
As if the Thai restaurant dinner next door wasn’t gratifying enough, I knew little about the exuberant feast that lay ahead. Served on an extravagant gold-embossed platter, Songs in the Key Of Motown at Anita’s Theatre in Thirroul was a dessert worth waiting for. Not surprising when you consider the iconic venue itself and its rich and romantic history. Anita’s Theatre stands almost defiantly in the centre of town in the small seaside village of Thirroul, NSW. Originally the old King’s Picture Theatre, it was heroically re-opened in 2007 by John Comelli, who lavishly refurbished and re-named it, in honour of his late beloved wife, Anita.
The interiors are not for the faint-hearted. Its overwhelming intricate Art Deco interiors (which some may consider gaudy or kitsch) work magnificently. Maybe it’s the mesmerising Alice in Wonderland fantasy it transports you to, or knowing that every balustrade, chandelier and decorative trim was selected and lovingly placed in memory of the adoration of a man for his wife. For that reason alone, it works.
Going by the buzz in the room, locals obviously embrace this palace-like venue and seem to already know they’re in for a treat. Current owner Nick says he’s passionate about keeping its spirit alive and providing a thriving music hotspot, hosting similar acts to Sydney’s Enmore Theatre. There’s no doubt about his commitment when you see him at the front door, scanning tickets as if to proudly welcome guests into his home.
Before you have the chance to settle into your seat, Songs in the Key of Motown blasts onto stage, bedazzling you in all its glittery glory. An exhilarating sing- and dance-off between two of the biggest soul shows in Las Vegas—who along with four musicians from Australia and a banquet of classic hip-swinging, arm-waving, body-shaking classics from the Motown era—they seamlessly blend together to create a delectable soul-music extravaganza.
The Songs in the Key of Motown tour was created specifically for the Australian audience and you can currently only see this show here. Founder Cushney Roberts never envisaged music as a career choice, but when he found himself without a weekly pay cheque, he decided to give it a try. Moving to Las Vegas, he formed Songs in the Key of Motown featuring his own group Spectrum with a female group he created and called Radiance.
Donning glorious sequin and chiffon are the four stunning songstresses who make up Radiance: Yolanda, MarQue, Vivian and Crystal, each of whom is dynamic and vocally fabulous while they dance and intently engage their doting audience. Striding in their wake emerge the suit-clad swagathon of male charmers who make up Spectrum; founder Cushney, E.C., Pierre and Darryl, each with glowing smiles, snapping their fingers and smoothly stepping out their uber-polished routines.
The groups seamlessly swap lead and backing vocals, embellished with beautiful harmonies and the synchronised dance steps that are so integral to the Motown movement. While each group provides separate entertaining sets, when they come together, it’s something extra special. All the while behind the scene sits the four-piece band, skillfully supporting each song and somehow leaving you wondering why you’re not even missing a brass section.
In the second act, the ladies take us back to the days of dazzling disco madness with a big Donna Summers medley. After this, there’s an inspiring moment when they sing out the familiar lines ‘Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat?’ Sitting is no longer an option now, and a flurry of performers fill the aisles, giving the crowd permission to follow, which they did.
For two hours they deliver hit after hit, we hear Gladys Night & The Pips, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, Jackson 5, The Four Tops, The Marvelettes, Stevie Wonder and the hit parade just reels on seemingly forever in a heartening trip back to the glory days, where gold vinyl poured out of that two-story house in Detroit. ‘Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine’ had arms swaying from left to right and ‘We are Family’ was saved for the encore with the whole room up on their feet.
For someone with little interest in attending cover gigs, I struggled to find any negatives. Obviously there’s no denying the infectious brilliance that is Motown and no surprise that this genre continues to fill concert halls some fifty years after its inception. This concert offered all the elements of an entertaining, totally fun night that the audience (including myself) loved. It was just the right gig for grabbing a bunch of peeps, a glass of champers, kicking up your heels and dissolving the stresses of a working week. Would I go again? Definitely.
Venue & show review by Terri Rowe