Cabaret has always been rooted in political dissent, existing in 16th century France as an avenue to air local grumblings under the cover of night, not confined to female performances alone and certainly not the gauche representation we often associate with the style today. That early concept of political satire held in small social circles carries over into Lady’s Rizo’s current venture, Red, White and Indigo, which she describes as her international apology tour for the “sebaceous cyst of a man-baby who is currently president”. Though she never mentions his name, the current American President and his administration form the backdrop and villain to her set as she topically dissects the unsavoury aspects present within Donald Trump’s decision making, from gun control to his personal affront to the dignity of women. All the while, her sumptuous singing voice, which is capable of everlasting high notes, is a jaw-dropping thing of soulful incandescence, at times reminiscent of Billie Holiday or Diana Krall. No wonder that with pipes like these, she has a Grammy on her mantle thanks to her 2010 collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma.
Rizo, though a highly gifted chanteuse, is equally laden with a sardonic comedic prowess and a beguiling knack for storytelling. Using her entire body to weave a storyline, we see how intelligent cabaret can be when a multi-hyphenate like Rizo is at the helm. As for her songs, she chooses to open with a dramatic rendition of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, slinking down from the top of the venue to the backdrop of an upside-down American flag. Other favourites include ‘Bang Bang’ and ‘The Ghost of The Chateau Marmont’. The tempo and low-pitch are darkly befitting for the times, and ironically induce as many goosebumps as the subject matter does. Between all her crooning, she doles her trademark wit with thick exuberance, sharing a variety of entertaining anecdotes alongside shots of vodka. She herself sips on a gin-martini throughout the show.
Don’t be mistaken, however. This show is kooky, in the same way that put David Bowie on the map. One minute, she is fluttering her false lashes to seduce the crowd, and the next they are wide, intentionally meant to appear insane alongside her crooked grin. There is simply no comparing the performance she gives to anything else, nor will you forget it anytime soon. Her costumes though are what you would expect from within this category – glittering silvers and feminine silhouettes. Those in the front row should be comfortable with close contact, because Rizo will caress you, feed you shots of vodka, or even have you help as she abandons her evening wear. This is cabaret, after all.
Lady Rizo: Red, White and Indigo
Assembly Hall – Rainy Hall (Venue 35)
Image: Lady Rizo / Assembly