Walking into the Spiegeltent on this sunny Edinburgh morning, I’m greeted by the sight and sounds of a roomful of people producing jazz-hands to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. About half are under 5 and the remainder cover the spectrum of carers and family members along for the ride.
“Why is this getting a review on This Is Cabaret?” You may be asking. Because this is the sensational new show from Ali McGregor, of Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night fame, proving that elegance and sophistication of musical appreciation doesn’t have to be for adults only.
In a glamorous red dress, sparkly heels and diamond earrings, McGregor and her live band play a set of nursery and pop classics, re-arranged in a jazz style, and incorporating games and participatory play on the large open dance floor.
She is supported by fellow Aussies Amelia Ryan and Michael Griffiths, showing off their talents as children’s hosts – a far cry from their other Edinburgh Fringe offerings (Ryan brings comedy one-woman cabaret Storm in a D Cup and Griffiths stars in Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox). They twirl as ballroom dancers, encourage the tots, or become sleeping animals in the playful safari that comes with McGregor’s rendition of In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle.
Talking about her show in last week’s Cabaret Chinwag, McGregor is keen to stress that this is real music by real musicians, not something watered down. Why should children be kept away from genuine quality? When she hits those high notes, McGregor’s opera training is apparent, but the quality of the production also shines through in her audience approach, perfectly appropriate to each age group she visits with her mic.
We get to aww over the cute answers to questions like “What makes you happy?”, and there are also a number of subtle mum-to-mum jokes. Or mum-to-dad. Or grandad. Or strange lady sitting on her own with no children in tow (me). This is a sharing experience for families, but it is also a greatly enjoyable show on its own merits. I’m sitting here clicking my fingers, bobbing in my chair and singing along with the best of them.
The warbling, smiling McGregor is still immensely watchable for me with no kids to play with. The song choices and the novelty of their jazz arrangements are fun, and seeing parents, grandparents and kids all up together, connecting and dancing, is beautiful.