Review | Paul Capsis delivers a masterclass in cabaret performance

Paul Capsis: Up Close and Personal | His Majesty’s Theatre | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

If anything, the Covid pandemic has shown us that we as people need and crave live entertainment like never before.

Perth is the enviable position to have His Majesty’s Theatre, the only remaining working Edwardian theatre in Australia and the perfect venue for the 2022 Perth International Cabaret Festival.

The setting for last night’s performance of Paul Capsis’s Up Close and Personal could not be beaten. We were seated in café chairs physically on the cavernous stage with round candle-lit tables, showcasing the theatre’s architectural interior masterpiece as a backdrop. It was simply quite breathtaking!

When the allotted 8.15pm start came, Capsis appeared from the back of the crowded room sporting a burgundy-coloured shaggy frock coat, a fur Muscovite hat and was clearly checking out the room as he strode to the front of his amazing backing band, where they launched into Joel Grey’s signature song, Willkommen from Cabaret.

Clutching the microphone with bejeweled gems on every finger, gender-fluid Capsis’s fantastic playlist showcased his vocal range and vocal breathing technique as they launched into gospel-infused On My Way, through to crowd favourite, Sonny and Cher’s Bang Bang.

Unscripted monologues carried the message as new songs were introduced. From gospel through to gin-soaked blues numbers like Little Girl Blue and Fade to Black, Capsis’s mastery of vocals shone. When the ballads arrived the lyrics took on a fresh new meaning as the band moved to a G-flat minor key, which further showcased Capsis’s incredible mid-vocal register.

Clearly channeling divas of the past, Garland, Winehouse and Joplin were all there as part of the skill set for the performance. And somehow, when I closed my eyes and allowed my sensory organs to take over, I too was transported back in time as if these divas had reappeared.

Very few artists can achieve this, which only further advances my opinion that here we were as an audience collectively witnessing a masterclass in cabaret performance.

With Musical Director Jeremy Brennan’s nimble fingers pounding on a Yamaha grand piano, Greg Brenton on double bass and electric bass guitar and Joe Southwell on percussion the 50+ minute set finished with Lou Reed’s A Perfect Day and Nina Simone’s Feeling Good.

A five-minute standing ovation concluded with what was a magical night of pure theatre. My suggestion would be dust off those cha-cha heels and get tickets for tonight’s performance, it will be the best gift you could give yourself in a long time!

Paul Capsis: Up Close and Personal closes tonight, Thursday 23 June at His Majesty’s Theatre. For tickets, head to

Terry Larder

Image: Vanessa Cooper Photography

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