Festivals can be like a dessert buffet sitting – there are many different treats on offer, and only so much time. So, there’s extra pressure to choose carefully. Aeroplane Jelly is a mix of cabaret and comedy with promising aspects.
The show is performed by Italian-Australian Stephen Zappia, and has had a run in Edinburgh. Zappia has recently relocated from his hometown Sydney (location of many show anecdotes) to Melbourne. You rarely see most of a show’s script read from an exercise book, which somewhat lessens the connection between audience and performer.
The show does not credit a writer, but we can expect that having an “outside eye” here will add further gloss to the work. Zappia’s use of jelly metaphors sloshes around a bit.
At one point he talks of protecting himself with armour that’s like jelly, transparent and useless, but then later it works well enough to keep people away. Towards the end, without a clear justification, jelly is now some wonderful material capable of flight – like that logo of the titular classic Australian packet desert.
Zappia admitted to being a huge fan of Hollywood musicals, which might explain the “show biz” singing accent. There was a touch of nasality to the lower notes at times. However, Zappia projected his voice well, and higher notes were sweetly sung, which may suggest how our performer can better play to their strengths. Regarding the comedic aspect, a take on Chicago’s Cell Block Tango, with lyrics changed to reflect Zappia’s sexual misadventures, gave us an amusing moment.
Content about “coming out of the closet” is pretty common for cabaret shows, especially at Midsumma. However, it still seems that people of all ages and cultures feel they have to go through this alone. Then, there must still be a need for shows like this one, which shows that, despite some wobbles, there can be a happy ending.
The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Performance: Monday 29 January 2024 – 8.30pm
Season continues to 3 February 2024
Information and Bookings: www.midsumma.org.au
Image: Stephen Zappia stars in Aeroplane Jelly (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte