adelaide fringe 2011 review: a modest exhibit

Suzanna Parisi, 01/03/2011
Nova FM

The unfortunate thing about A Modest Exhibit is that its 2011 Adelaide Fringe run is over, and you've missed one of the most original and moving cabaret performances I have seen at the Fringe in a long time. 

With an eclectic mix of songs that will entertain and delight you, this is the story of a young boy growing up and the muses that have helped him through hard times and inspired him to find his true path and meaning. 

Charles Sanders performs an honest and touching portrayal of those moments in life that defined who he is and who he is still to become. His voice is wonderful and he sings a variety of tunes with the elegance and style of a seasoned cabaret performer. 

Early Worx in theatre and art should be commended for taking part in a wonderfully unique cabaret experience. If this is the calibre of their performances I hope to see much more from them and Charles Sanders. 

2011 Cabaret Fringe Review: A Modest Exhibit

Monday, February 28, 2011, Lena Nobuhara
Cabaret Confessional

In his cabaret debut A Modest Exhibit, Charles Sanders tells of his muses that have guided him through certain moments and stages of his life to date.

Through monologues and an array of songs ranging from Rogers and Hammerstein, Jason Robert Brown, Andrew Lippa to Queen and U2 with a strong narrative, he illustrates the events and aspects of his life that shaped him, such as his love for musical theatre, his parents’ divorce, dalliance with drugs and dealing with fear. He also examines the line between identity and influence.

He is striking with the most beautiful, delicate face and slender body. Clad in a black singlet top and the tightest black leather pants you’ll ever see, he stands strong, moves well on the stage, and gazes the audience with courage and honesty.

The imaginative arrangements by Sanders’ excellent Musical Director Carol Young draw focus on his impressive vocal range. The song choices are personal and pertinent.

What tops off the evening is the spine-tingling rendition of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” at the very end. The song sums up exactly where he’s at in his life, and he sings the lyrics the way he feels them.

The theatrical structure of the show and Sanders referring to himself in the third person (“The Boy”) in his monologues create a different dynamic, and it has its pros and cons, depending on what kind of interaction and connection he is seeking to have with the audience.

This is an early work in progress, and there’s no doubt A Modest Exhibit will continue to evolve with experience and fine-tuning.  It is exciting to see a young cabaret artist taking risks and putting himself on the line the way he is. Many in the audience are touched by his gutsy performance.

He has so much potential, and for his first cabaret show, this is a stellar accomplishment. Charles Sanders is a talented and promising young performer that will go places. 

A modest exhibit

Jun 2011, Review by John Wells
Adelaide Theatre Guide

Charles Sanders’ one-man cabaret is indeed a modest addition to the Cabaret Fringe season, but modest in the sense that it is a small-scale, almost hand-made production free from hype. It is well-crafted and perfectly judged. 

Sanders stands on stage, heavily made up with a pixie haircut and frighteningly tight pants, and tells his story. The show is a vaguely linear meditation on identity, awareness and belonging. Initially, the narrative takes the third person which distances the audience from the very intimate and immediate performance in the basement at Higher Ground. But Sanders’ delivery and commitment are unflagging. He is compelling raconteur. Sanders sings tunes that reflect his tale, ranging from Gilbert and Sullivan to Queen (with a hilarious Cher impersonation thrown in). He has a versatile voice which is paired beautifully with his song choices. 

I think there are enough productions around to now establish “gay cabaret memoir” as a separate genre. “A Modest Exhibit” is an example of a good one: it is not just a collection of songs with a loose linking theme and some patter. Many one-person shows suffer from a lack of critical distance. Sanders has avoided this by calling on director Velalien and musical director Carol Young, who have shaped this into a sinewy and sensitive show. Their guiding influence should not be underestimated; a show like this could descend into self-indulgent dross, here the production is well-paced and emotionally focused. 

The production suffers slightly from a touch of earnest self-importance and does not have broad audience appeal. But Sanders is undoubtedly a skilled performer; he has presented a tight, professional and quality show.

A modest exhibit

Peter Maddern, 23 June 2011
Kryztoff Raw

If the somewhat quaint title does not alert you to the possibility of an extraordinary show, then certainly Charles Sanders’ opening number as Mabel singing Take Heart from the Pirates of Penzance will do the trick.

A Modest Exhibit is the tale of the various influences on a child’s life as he grows. No doubt, at least in part autobiographical, Sanders takes from the world of Gilbert & Sullivan to Cher (as a substitute mother) via the trauma of parents splitting to Freddie Mercury; the result of what happens when the drug muse grabs you by the throat.

In a word Charles Sanders is amazing. His vocal strength is accompanied by a confidence and athleticism that makes this a stunning show. Dressed in almost trademark black leather trousers and mostly also a black singlet, the somewhat androgynous Sanders wows you with his passion for not only his music but his joy in performing – a creature who seemingly spends 23 hours each day absorbing the energy and subtlety of the world around him to let it rip for the 60 minutes he is up front and centre.

His Let Me Drown and U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For are highlights but the entire performance is captivating and sublime.

If criticism is warranted it is in the absurd use of speakers the size of refrigerators for a crowd of 20 in a room too small to play pool in. A more unplugged persona would likely elevate this show to the top but in any case if you are into the Cabaret Fringe this is one show that will surpass all others. A star in the making and this show is by no means a modest exhibit of an extraordinary talent.

Kryztoff Rating4.5K

2011 Cabaret Fringe Review: A Modest Exhibit

Tuesday, June 28, 2011, Lena Nobuhara
Cabaret Confessional

Reprising his 2011 Adelaide Fringe cabaret debut, Charles Sanders takes us on a journey of ‘a boy’ through the songs and muses that shaped him.

This version is chiseled down to its very essence in an intimate venue that brings the audience closer to him. It delivers an honest story and shines in its simplicity.

A boy’s love for musical theatre, his parents’ devastating divorce, putting up a wall, numbing himself with drugs – each of these stories are told with Sanders’ all-consuming zeal for his art. Visually striking, Sanders engages the audience with his soulful eyes and emotionally charged vocals that speak a thousand words.

His rendition of “I’m Not Afraid of Anything” is raw and powerful in its vulnerability as it takes his passionate performance to new heights. The closing number “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” suggests that this is an open-ended tale that will continue to unfold as Sanders grows as a cabaret artist and keeps on tapping into his unlimited potential.

Sanders gives an exquisitely nuanced performance in this return season and takes the show to a new level.