Cabaret Review: Prancer & Vixen/ The Strange Bedfellows


Prancer & Vixen: The Strange Bedfellows

Leadbelly, Newtown

23 December, 2018

Written by Deen Hamaker

This was not a standard Christmas show! With sarcastic tongues firmly stuck in cheeks, Jacqueline Dark as Vixen and Kanen Breen as Prancer, with their elf, Musical Director Daryl Wallis, providing excellent support, took us on a dark, sardonic journey, in which these two randy reindeer explored their attempts to find meaning in Christmas. From hysterically funny naughtiness to the surprisingly poignant, this is an adult treat for the festive season.

With consummate musicianship and a wicked sense of humour, we were taken through the dark, uncouth underbelly of the world of Santa’s reindeer. Influenced by such disparate sources as the ballads of Weimar Germany, The Animals and of course by many classic Christmas songs, this original and shocking show moves from one outrageous moment to the next, without losing a beat. It is a journey that encapsulates many sentiments: jealousy, bitterness, sexual depravity, blasphemy, profanity, sodomy and copious amounts of bestiality. Indeed, this is not a traditional kiddies’ Christmas show. Many of the numbers may only be hinted at, such as Try Not To Be a C&%t this Christmas – yet, this is no tawdry one-gimmick show. There is nuance and feeling, delivered with a rare musical wit by sensational musicians.

Vixen and Prancer have been banished from Santa’s herd this year and are left searching for the real meaning of Christmas. Vixen has gone a little too far, sharing her ample sexual favours with Santa and her fellow reindeer. Whereas Prancer has been having sex on the down-low with Blitzen. Santa being something of a homophobe, has dismissed Prancer after he tried to stage a Pride march at the North Pole. Bitter at their expulsions, the pack narrate the downfalls of Vixen and Prancer. Vixen sings Surabaya Santa (a take on Weill’s Surabaya Johnny), about her torrid, unhappy affair with the big guy. Prancer comes out with Walking in women’s underwear (Winter Wonderland). Other musical highlights include O Little Town of Bethlehem to the tune of The House of the Rising Sun, Mr Hanky the Christmas Poo, Santa and the Three Hoes and The Casino Christmas Lullaby, overheard by Vixen as a mother sings to her baby before leaving it in the car to try her luck at a Christmas jackpot.

Amongst all this outrageous depravity, Vixen and Prancer take off to explore Christmas around the world, running into Krampus, Black Pete, Frau Perchta and other devilish anti-Santas. Amongst all the mockery and macabre hijinks, our two reindeer crash on Manus Island, providing an unexpected theatrical coup. With a deft hand and deep sincerity, Vixen and Prancer learn the real meaning of Christmas from the forgotten refugees trapped on Manus Island. Set to the beautiful haunting Turkish lullaby, Dandini, the sequence is the pivot point of the show, as tears of laughter become tears of sorrow. After our reindeer evacuate as many of the refugees as they can, we are whisked back to the North Pole where Vixen tries to convince Prancer to stay, with a rendition of Baby, it’s Cold Outside.

Kanen Breen is one of the most spectacular operatic tenors in Australia who has also made a name for himself in cabaret. His gender-fluid characterisations are accurate and gimmick-free. He has serious vocal chops to handle cabaret, exuding meaning from every phrase. Jacqueline Dark, a regular on both music theatre and operatic stages across Australia, brings her stunning voice and vivaciousness to her fabulous portrayal of Vixen, the tarty reindeer with a heart of gold. Daryl Wallis gets two songs of his own as well as playing the musical accompaniment for the show, carrying it off with aplomb. He is hysterically funny in his own right with his upfront profanity. The Strange Bedfellows have made their reputation with their own brand of lascivious, queer, operatic mayhem.

The joy and simple goodwill of Christmas is often overlaid with saccharine and Disneyfied embellishment. This show was one way of a countering the appropriation of the festive season by cloying sentimentality.

Deen Hamaker for SoundsLikeSydney©

Deen Hamaker is a passionate opera aficionado and commentator. Introduced to theatre, opera and classical music at a very young age, he has acted in and directed several theatre productions, both in Australia and overseas. Deen lived in Japan for several years and studied the performing arts of Asia. Deen’s particular passion is opera, particularly the Russian, French and Modern repertoire. Deen was a contributing author for “Great, Grand and Famous Opera Houses”, 2012. Fluent in Japanese, Deen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese from Griffith University and currently lives in Sydney.


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