Note: This review is from the 2019 Fringe

Draped in a magnificent black gown and sitting underneath an archway rising above her head, Carol Cates could have come straight from a classical work of art. Such a magnetic aura stays with Cates for the whole show. A mixture of striking voice work and good humour ensure that you become ever more entranced by this experienced performer as the hour progresses.

Cates’ singing is very distinctive. Initially it can feel like her voice would be more comfortable in a bigger venue, but over time you feel at ease with her vocals, which dip from soaring heights to gentler lows throughout the show. The musical numbers are all different, but are mainly focused around relationships – a deliberately broad catch-all for everything from romance, family and the relationship you have with yourself. Carrying only a ukulele, Cates crafts an atmosphere of calm and humour as you slowly lose yourself to the mesmerising musical set. The lyrics also provide a good opportunity for a laugh, the inventiveness of one song about life’s two inevitabilities definitely the comedic standout. When Cates finds her peak and reaches her astounding potential, you will never want the music to stop.

Between the songs, Cates shares with the audience some of her personal reflections. Such stories certainly make you laugh but also serve a higher purpose as the performer welcomes you into her life through her humour and her music.. Her comedy strikes a chord with audience members, and does more to make them feel like part of her inner circle than make them fall on the floor laughing. Her method of building a relationship with her audience is top class.

Tell Tale is a wonderful little gem to enjoy this Fringe. With impressive songwriting that is both funny and poignant, Cates reinforces herself as a top-notch musical comedian. With a knack for words and a voice fit for the heavens, Cates transforms Tell Tale from just another song-and-dance into a performance that is unique, charming and a deeply pleasant experience.