When she passed away in July 2011, after struggling with drug addiction, family breakdowns and the pressures of life in the public eye, Amy Winehouse left us with some of the most incredible and most iconic pop songs of the past 20 years. She defied convention, went out and did it all her own way, not just a junkie, but an incredible artist with a unique voice, and a compelling style, that captured the hearts and the imaginations of people in an era where every artist seemed polished, mass produced and lacking soul. Frankly Winehouse is a cabaret work, that is not quite a tribute show, though it paints a funny, fragile and soulful portrait of an artist lost way too soon. Creator Ashleigh Kreveld spoke with TAGG ahead of her upcoming season.
What was it about the music of Winehouse that captured the hearts and imaginations of music lovers around the world, in your own words, what set her apart?
I think Amy’s music was something that hadnt really been heard at the time. Her blend of jazz, rnb and modern hip hop, with the lyrics and sentiment of a poetic, yet street savvy, young woman were seen as something else. She never set out to be a pop star, she just made music she wanted to hear. I think people loved her slick rhythms and melodies, and were also drawn into the no-holes-barred stories she shared through her lyrics. Her voice alone is mind-blowing; even singing covers, her smoky alto is compelling to listen to.
Aside from her music, what other characteristic do you think helped in propelling to international stardom?
I think the fact that Amy didn’t really give a toss about being a ‘celebrity’ propelled her into fame. She was a regular Camden girl who happened to find herself famous – she partied and hurt and lived like anyone else, but the fact that she wasn’t polished and she spoke out was capitalised on by the media. Obviously her struggles with drugs and alcohol, and her husband’s arrest, were seen as top selling stories, and further pushed the so called “train wreck” Amy WInehouse brand into the light.
How do you personify such a larger than life character on stage, is it even impossible to do such an amazing musician justice?
I try my best to do Amy as much justice as possible. Looks wise, I’ve got the whole wig, dress, tattoo thing happening. As an actor and singer, I’ve studied her mannerisms and tone from a technical point, and try my best to replicate that. As a writer, most of the dialogue is direct quotes of things Amy had said in interviews, or drawn directly from her lyrics. However, I’m not an impersonator. I’m just trying to respectfully paint a portrait of an astonishing artist that I too am in awe of.
What can audiences expect from the performance?
Audiences can expect a frank, fun night out with Wino. I think my cabaret is unique in the sense that it’s the first time Amy’s voice is heard, in her own words, not spun in a biography by her father or in Asif Kapadia’s slickly edited biopic film ‘Amy’. I sing all her greatest hits, supported by a pianist, and delve well into life behind the beehive – touching on her heartbreak, addiction but also her fun, playful and witty side – ditching dirt on celebrities too!
What do you think the world lost, the day Amy died?
I think the world lost a truly great artist that’s legacy really hasn’t been replaced. Not only musically and lyrically gifted, but fresh in her views, and with who she was as a person and artist. Mainstream singers nowadays like Adele seem sleek and manufactured in comparison, while others, like Sia, seem to shy away from the limelight. She truly was one of a kind.
And finally, what do you hope to offer audience, and what most do you hope they take away from it?
I hope the audience gains a fresh perspective on a truly talented artist and human who was more than a ‘junkie’ caught by the paparazzi. I hope they have a newfound respect and love for Amy if they weren’t familiar with her music beforehand. I hope to paint a picture of a talented, glorious songbird lost way too soon.
Frankly Winehouse opens this Wednesday the 3rd of August at Whole Lotta Love Bar in Brunswick, for tickets click here