Fringe review: Euromash

Johanna Allen and her crew take their audience on a journey to places exotic, funny and strange this entertaining Fringe show. ★★★ ½

Mar 12, 2021, updated Mar 12, 2021

Euromash is a cabaret mash-up of pop music, classic European songs from last century and Spanish accents. Chanteuse Johanna Allen stars in this entertaining show, but world-class Adelaide musicians Mark Ferguson (piano) and Julian Ferraretto (violin and mandolin) are also integral.

Allen’s background in opera and musical theatre is clear from her vocal strength and tonal variety, along with her theatrical, engaging personality. She offers an amusing patter between songs and the most loving crowd control I’ve ever witnessed. When, mid-song, an audience member decided to speak at full pitch, Allen said: “Hello, loud people. I like you.”

As they used to say on Australian Idol, it’s all about song selection. Some of Euromash’s song choices are perfect, such as the opening number, in which a Spanish song morphs into Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” in English. And Allen’s version of Madonna’s “Borderline” is far better than the original.

Other highlights are a convincingly Russian treatment of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me To the End of Love” and a high-energy version of the (already high-energy) song “Mambo Italiano”, accompanied by Ferraretto on mandolin. Ferraretto’s personality also emerges in this song, particularly when he works the mandolin while duckwalking across the stage, followed by Hendrix-like playing behind his head. Hilarious!

A couple of the more obscure songs have little inherent melodic power or lyrical interest. To match the brilliant wordsmithery of Kurt Weill and Leonard Cohen, songs by Nick Cave or Tom Waits could be welcome inclusions. Just saying.

An odd moment is when Allen (accompanied by Ferraretto on electric saw) sings Weill’s 1928 murder ballad “Mack the Knife”. Aptly, she sings it like a serial killer. But after a while, the sounds of a deranged voice and an experimental saw just seem like something you might hear by accident on ABC Radio. Before quickly turning it off.

Having said that, even this musical experiment is dramatic and memorable and only deepens the sense that Allen and crew have taken us on a journey to places exotic, funny and strange. Although “Mack the Knife” tests the patience of a typically reserved Adelaide audience (“lovely but sedate”, as Allen described us), Euromash Eurosmashed it and is well worth seeing.

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Euromash is being performed at The Queens until March 14.

Read more Adelaide Fringe reviews and previews  here.



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