Love Like 90s R ‘n’ B’s pre-show playlist gets us in a party mood with Ginuwine’s Pony and Kriss Kross’s Jump playing from the speakers in Fireside’s Arch III stage. And as Larissa Moran appears on stage, she keeps the buzz going, urging the audience onto their feet to throw some shapes. However, the energy in this one-woman show begins to dissipate beyond this point and it becomes a slow fade out until the limp end of the show.
The concept, as described by Moran, is that 90s R ‘n’ B helped mould her love life and teenage development growing up in Australia. This amusing opportunity for some fun references and anecdotes isn’t really grasped, though, and the monologues drift along without enough structure or punchlines. Moran is an engaging performer. She is lively and committed to involving the reticent audience as much as possible and she makes us want her to succeed. But the material just isn’t witty enough to support her.
A key focus, as you’d expect from the show’s title, is music. The Aussie comic plays her anthropomorphised ukulele (an ongoing joke that just doesn’t garner enough laughs) and sings some of her favourite 90s tunes. This could be another chance for great comedy, but several problems arise. Firstly, playing what was heavily-produced 90s R ‘n’ B on a ukulele instantly changes the songs too much, to the point that we don’t even recognise some of them until the time to laugh has passed. Secondly, the idea relies on the audience knowing the original lyrics in order to appreciate the new ones Moran has replaced them with. You can’t effectively parody something when the listeners don’t know the source material. And it all just drags on a little too long. Finally, Moran’s singing isn’t bad enough to be funny in itself, nor good enough to make this an impressive cabaret performance.
The performer seems too upbeat and emphatic not to find her comedy niche somewhere else. It just seems a waste that Love Like 90s R ‘n’ B isn’t it.