O.C.Diva – The talented Hilary Cole and Cabaret. (Theatre Review)


O.C. Diva

Hayes Theatre

Sunday’s 15 June to 29 June. Grab your tickets here. 

Hilary Cole, the rising star on the Sydney musical theatre scene, is definitely a woman to watch. After wowing audiences as the star of Squabbalogic’s enormously successful Carrie in 2013 and then The Drowsy Chaperone (what a great show that was) in early 2014, she was offered three Sunday nights by the Hayes’ Theatre as part of their cabaret festival, which she gleefully accepted, being young, keen and desperate for experience. The result is O.C. Diva, a show she wrote herself, about herself, perfectly conscious of how pretentious that appears – there is a moment where she confesses to being forced to reveal her age. “Twenty-Three.” she cries through hands over face. “Oh, I’m so young!” However what Cole is clever enough to include is openess and vulnerability that can be misread as inexperience, in a way satisfying the obvious problem with her taking on something like this at such a young age, and immediately endearing an audience, possibly searching for youthful flaws.

Her tale of her life, no small feat when one has experienced so little of it, is confined to self-reflection, a trail of her neuroses as represented by the various shows, objects, people and things she has become obsessed with, as she has learnt how to cope with the fears and scant reassurances an acting career dumps on those determined to make it. It’s a good idea, because on the rare occasions when she falls into reminiscing about “life”, such as toward the end in a touching tribute to her husband, she inevitably steps into a role and out of the youthful Diva we are growing to love. These moments are rare however, and for the most part, Hilary Cole’s reflections on her obsessive compulsive disorder that reached its zenith with her Rubiks Cube under sixty seconds PB, is a delightful tale of a very talented young woman living with the stresses of wanting to be an artist.

This journey through her obsessions is sometimes extremely funny, such as when she produces a pink album covered in love hearts and glitter art dedicated to the cast of the three Lord of the Rings Films, donning an elvish cloak and singing Stitt and Heisler’s ‘The Wanting of You’. Or when she performs a bang on impersonation of Bernadette Peters – another passionate love interest. Like the tradition she’s espousing these tales are dotted with musical numbers from The book of Mormon, ‘You and me (But mostly Me)’, to a hefty collection of well executed Sondheim including ‘Being Alive’ and ‘Losing my Mind,’ with Cole’s Musical Director, Steven Kreamer. There is some modern stuff tossed into the mix, with Beyonce and Pink making seamless interjections along side a cabaret version of the Blondie song, ‘One Way or Another,’ surely becoming a staple since Lea DeLaria did that incredible version of ‘Call Me’, and Blondie’s tunes translate so well to the world of Cabaret. Cole easily moves in and out of the various moods, her acting in between right on target, including her remarkable ability to draw the audience into the small world she has created.

All in all, the O.C. Diva is not a predictable show, even if it is a balanced and well nuanced night of Cabaret theatre. Cole has a good grasp of what cabaret can do, creating an intimacy as warm and endearing as the songs she performs, making her first cabaret a stretch into some outer regions, perfectly performed, carrying with them the promise of great things to look forward to from Hilary Cole.

Hilary Cole