New York, new pork: Babe leads the invasion

AUSSIES INVADE

Australia hasn't exactly taken over New York, but some of our best performers have established a solid beachhead.

A mini-invasion of the New York arts scene last month has been a critical and popular success, with several ambitious performers hoping to maintain the momentum through November.

The hottest ticket in town is the Sydney promoter Lynton Harris. His Halloween showcase transforms Manhattan's most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, into a giant, multi-million-dollar house of horrors.

The guitarist John Williams attracted a sellout crowd despite debuting on the night the New York Yankees were putting the San Diego Padres to the sword in baseball's World Series. "Mr Williams supplied his own fireworks," wrote the Times critic, Allan Kozinn, in describing the Australian as "extraordinary".

Another acclaimed guitarist, Melbourne's Slava Grigoryan, the Young Australian of the Year for the Arts in 1998, won generous praise here last year and returns this week for performances.

Adelaide crooner David Campbell, the 25-year-old son of rocker Jimmy Barnes, is playing nightly to packed houses at the Rainbow Room and continues to be the darling of the local critics, one of whom last year proclaimed him to be the most exciting performer to arrive on the cabaret scene since Barbra Streisand. When not performing, Campbell has been out and about, providing moral support for Combo Fiasco and Maree Johnson.

The Melbourne-based Combo, a trio of former Phantom of the Opera stars, have just ended a second successful season at the Eighty Eights club, after stunning locals with a show-stealing performance at the Cabaret Convention at New York Town Hall three weeks ago.

Johnson, another former Phantom star, won the Sydney Cabaret Convention this year and showed why with a great solo spot at the three-day Cabaret Convention. The Sydneysider's other performances at Eighty Eights and Danni's Skylight Room have been poorly publicised, but word of mouth has ensured her first Manhattan visit won't be her last.

A short season at the New Victory Theatre on Broadway for Wake Baby, Reckless Moments, a package of puppetry and acrobatics, was a critical hit, with The New York Times describing it as "wordless but eloquent ... Fantastic, funny, wise and sometimes tense".

The Sydney playwright Hilary Bell, the daughter of the renowned Shakespearian interpreter John Bell, is in for a longer stint on Broadway with her murder tale Wolf Lullaby, which has "some genuinely disturbing moments", according to the NYT.

Other Australian performers in town have included veteran Judi Connelli and up-and-coming pop artists EDEN AKA and Julia Darling, who have both signed to US record companies.

The artist formerly known as Diesel continues to tread the boards here as Mark Lizotte.

But the biggest fuss this month will be over Nicole Kidman's 111 performances on Broadway in David Hare's drama The Blue Room. And that Australian swine star, Babe, returns to the big screen and will the biggest pig in New York with a giant balloon image of the porker featuring in Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade through the streets of Manhattan on November 26.

- AAP

Sydney Morning Herald - 4 November 1998