In this month’s edition of ‘Life is a Cabaret!’ – I’d like to shine a light on one of Melbourne’s most accomplished Cabaret and Musical Theatre performers: Melissa Langton.
Melissa is a stalwart of Melbourne’s cabaret and theatre scene – having performed locally and internationally for over twenty years, from Germany to New York – this lady knows how to put on a show!
Melissa has performed in major Australian musicals such as Les Miserables and Jesus Christ Superstar, and is known for her original cabaret productions, created with her esteemed partner, Mark Jones. She is also a member of the popular girl group “The Fabulous Singlettes”, who have toured internationally for the past 20 years.
Aside from her performing career, Melissa is also a passionate teacher and encourager of young cabaret talent. In 2000, Melissa and her partner, Mark Jones founded ‘The Cabaret Showcases’ – which provides a platform for emerging performers to present a professional 25-minute showcase under the mentorship and guidance of these two seasoned cabaret artists.
I did my first showcase with Mark and Melissa in 2018, and I can say that it is one of the most helpful things I have done for my musical career. The showcases really allowed me to find my own artistic voice, learn the niches of creating an entertaining cabaret, and gave me the confidence to continue writing my own work.
Now, let’s get the Tea from ‘A Cabaret Queen’:
What do you think sets Cabaret apart from other theatrical genres?
I love the intimate feeling of cabaret, and that it is the one genre where you can actually communicate with the audience and make them feel like they are sitting with you in your lounge room.
How does the craft of Cabaret differentiate from a performer’s perspective to say, a more ‘traditional’ mode, such as Music Theatre?
A skilled cabaret performer can make every person in that room leave feeling like you have spoken directly to them. I love doing Music Theatre, but always feel like that invisible fourth wall that separates you from the audience is a little bit of a crutch. And the audience feels more like they are at the movies and can snooze, eat their popcorn, or look at their phone. But cabaret is all-encompassing, the fourth wall is lifted, and the audience is part of the performance.
Who are your favourite local and international cabaret performers?
Oh that is such a hard question! There are so many great Aussie and international cabaret acts. However, I love original music, so I love Gillian Cosgriff, Eddie Perfect, Geraldine Quinn, and Tim Minchin. I also love Tripod and Dolly Diamond. All of these acts are awesome communicators with an audience which I love. In regards to international acts, I love Christine Lavin, Lea Delaria, Sally Mayes, Fascinating Aida, Rufus Wainwright, and The Divine Comedy, to name just a few!!!
What is your most memorable career highlight to date?
Again a hard question as I don’t think there has been just one, and also not all in cabaret. In regards to events that have shaped my career, definitely cabaret is a big part of that. I feel like doing cabaret has shaped me into the performer I am today in all mediums. Cabaret taught me to be brave and move outside my comfort zone, which meant that when I did musical theatre I took that with me and was able to become a better music theatre performer. In 2001 I won The Sydney Cabaret Convention and the prize was to perform at The New York Cabaret Convention and that was certainly pretty significant. However, now that I am thinking about it, my 20-year role in The Fabulous Singlettes is probably the single biggest shaper of my career.
How do you think the Australian Cabaret scene has evolved in your time, and where do you think it is headed in the future?
When I started out, in the late 1990s, cabaret was really only being defined and was initially a whole lot of musical theatre performers trying to keep their skills up whilst in between shows, so it really was just a stand and sing affair, doing your party pieces. My involvement with Mark Jones (who later became my husband), shaped our act, as he liked to think outside those boundaries, and started arranging songs, and he also has an uncanny ability to find obscure material, and then shape it to suit me.
His influence led us to become quite a prolific cabaret act in the early 2000s, which was challenging, but very rewarding for both of us. Then, with the emergence of local cabaret acts, like Eddie, Tim, and The Beautiful Losers, the cabaret scene started to come into its own and shift from just stand and sing to really evocative, almost performance art style cabaret which was very exciting. That is continuing today and it is really fabulous to watch in particular the Melbourne cabaret scene put its own stamp on the style of cabaret that comes out of our city!
Mellissa continues performing and teaching locally, and has also established her own production company with her partner, Mark in 2016: “Winding Road Productions” which promotes and presents cabaret shows around Victoria.
We are very lucky to have the expertise and talent of such fabulous performers and musicians, especially in such a niche medium, and I would encourage anyone who is interested in pursuing a career in Cabaret to look into ‘The Cabaret Showcases’.