Cake: The Marie Antoinette Playlist may be presented as a concert, but Drew McOnie’s direction and choreography, the show certainly creates enough intrigue for audience members to go down the Wikipedia rabbit hole after the curtain falls to find out more about this unique historical event.
Based on a lesser known incident in 18th-Century France, Cake is about how a con artist, Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Rémy (played by the powerhouse Renee Lamb) implicated Queen Marie Antoinette (played by the boundless talent that is Zizi Strallen) in a crime to defraud the Crown Jewellers of one of the most expensive diamond necklaces in existence. Like Operation Mincemeat, the plot is so ludicrous and unexpected that it’s hard to believe it is based on an actual historical event. And as with how history goes, some things just don’t go according to plan.
Cake joins the astonishing canon of musicals depicting historical events, reimagined through the use of a highly talented ethnically diverse cast, who are decked out in Rococo-inspired costume, performing to music heavily influenced by mainstream artistes in rap R&B pop. References are made to their musical predecessors Six and Hamilton (Macbeth’s famous line “Tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow” are also cheekily woven into this show). Jack McManus’ music and lyrics has elements of Todrick Hall and Cardi B’s music, with a callback to Christina Aguilera in the ballads and riffs.
Casting director Will Burton has brought together a stunning ensemble of eight, all of whom make this 90-minute spectacle seem like an absolute cakewalk. Transitioning effortlessly across various music genres and movement styles (with assistant choreography by Lindsay McAllister), the performers hardly seem to break a sweat as they twirl and lift each other around a stage, even at times manually revolving and moving the main set piece designed by Sami Fendall––obviously built to resemble a two-tier cake.
The duality of characters make the story all the more compelling. Strallen and Lamb shine brilliantly as princess-pauper counterpoints, Roger Dipper delivers the campiest Cardinal while Kandaka Moore’s Nicole is both formidable and sensual. Ope Sowande and Elizabeth Fullalove’s double act as Jewellers seems like Les Twins and Blue Ivy Carter meets The Matrix all at once. The visual language of the entire production still remains cohesive and so appealing despite the uniqueness of each character, and the breadth of musicality in their respective numbers. And their voices––how is nobody panting with all that rapping, belting and dancing all at the same time?!
The three-piece band, led by musical director Dan De Cruz and supported by Andy Sharman’s sound design, carry the performance from electrifying start to finish. There may not be a clear showstopper in the show, but every number has a distinct flavour that clearly showcases the characters. Whether villains or victors, the audience roots for every single one of them. Even underrated ensemble members Jade Albertsen and Travis Kerry get their chance to shine in the curtain call with such an energetic finish, the entire theatre is brought to its feet, grooving and shaking along to chants of “Sugar, Sugar” and “Let them eat cake!”
Cake: The Marie Antoinette Playlist may be in its early stages, but it has all the ingredients of a delightful musical that will most likely build its own cult following in time to come.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.
This post was written by Victoria Chen.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.