Review | Peter Cumins brings theatre’s Grand Dames to The Maj

There Is Nothin’ Like A Dame | His Majesty’s Theatre | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Perth’s musical theatre alum both past and present mixed with family and friends, who warmly greeted Peter Cumins at his final show for Perth International Cabaret Festival on Friday night. He bounded to the stage on cue, dressed head to toe in black matched with a shimmering jacket.

The premise of the show was the Grand Dames of musical theatre, which were cleverly illustrated with photo montages of the stage divas that served as intro to the chosen song playlist.

Banter with the audience followed each number with an explanation on how these Dames made it big and how they also fell out, notably with the director. The Patti LuPone and Andrew Lloyd Webber story was hilarious and had everyone in stitches. Women done wrong was the central theme – and it worked!

Everything from Gwen Verdon’s If My Friends Could See Me Now, through to Streisand’s People and Ethel Merman’s signature belter Anything Goes were showcased to the max.

Elaine Page’s Send In The Clowns was for me one of the tender ballad moments that not only slowed the show’s pace to great effect, but it also allowed the audience to reflect on Cumins’ delivery of these magnificent lyrics.

Tackling anything from Wicked is something in musical theatre that is akin to scaling (musical pun) Mt Everest; only the brave and fearless would ever attempt this feat. Get it right and you’re on top of the world, get it wrong and there’s an almighty long way to the bottom.

Towards the end of the show, bathed in green light in homage to the dark witch, Cumins started with The Wiz and then launched into Defying Gravity, a deceptive yet cleverly arranged mash-up of these two songs.

Defying Gravity’s complex lyric with modulating rhythms mixed in with multiple key changes is a test for any musician and thankfully ‘Sherpa’ Jackson on piano and ‘Sherpa’ Jack on percussion ably assisted Cumins’ crystal clear delivery, which was never forced or sliding onto the note; it was nothing less than pitch perfect magic.

Special mention should also go to Maddie Warner, whose skills set at the sound desk delivered on point. It’s a difficult room at the best times with its lower ceiling level and brick walls so to get it right demands precision with a constant tweaking with the sound levels.

And lastly, it takes an enormous amount of work and dedication to do a one-man show, you have to sure that the material works; the voice is top form, the band is the best you can find, along with among a mountain of other minute details.

Cumins refines the word ‘busy’ as he’s currently in his final year Master’s Degree at ECU, while taking a three-day layoff from his lead role in the local production of Grease to then turn out night after night wowing with his 50+ minute set piece. Now that’s busy!

His dream will come true tonight at the Gala performance, where he will perform two chosen songs from this wonderful theatre piece. It will be a culmination of years of hard work and dedication to his craft. I salute you dream catcher… Bravo Peter!

Get a taste of this week’s Perth International Cabaret Festival at tonight’s Closing Night Gala at His Majesty’s Theatre. For more, head to

Terry Larder

Image: Vanessa Cooper Photography

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