Red Dress & the Sugar Man
"Romeo's heart... is bleeding. His chest pounds like the empty throb of a septic wound. As he vaguely contemplates the notion that, while his heartbreak is overwhelming and all consuming, it is but a droplet in the torrent of all that is and all that has been... he waits... he doesn't know what he's waiting for... he just waits."
Recently, Marisa has spread her wings as a librettist and cabaret performer, writing and starring in her knockout cabaret show, Red Dress and The Sugar Man at the Adelaide and Melbourne Fringe Festivals, as well as in regional Victoria and the Northern Territory. With a live band on stage and sumptuous harmonies, Red Dress & the Sugar Man is a modern-day tragedy of poetic proportions. The show tells the story of Romeo and Rosie, two likely characters drowning in an ocean of regret.
One need not be familiar with the work or style of Tom Waits to appreciate Red Dress & the Sugar Man, one need only have an inkling of the complexities of heartbreak, passion and inner turmoil and a love of great music, moving words and powerful vocals. If you love Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Bonnie Raitt or Etta James and don’t mind a walk through the seedy side of town, you’ll love Red Dress & the Sugar Man.
“There are times when the atmosphere is conjured so vividly as to resemble a David Lynch movie.”
At the tender age of 21, sipping cheap Bourbon in a typical Northern Territory house, across the road from the typical Northern Territory pub from which I eked a living, I was introduced to the eclectic sounds and scapes of Tom Waits. “Nighthawks at the Diner” was to be my first Tom Waits album and the beginning of a healthy obsession with all things Waitsian.
After moving to Victoria in my mid-twenties I discovered an almost underground Tom Waits culture and was immediately taken. His lyrics and melodies spoke to me like no other music had before. I don't think I'd owned more than two albums of any other artist... I very quickly owned about 18 or more of Tom Waits'. "Nighthawks at the Diner" was the name of my radio show on PBS for 4 years, on which I always played at least one Tom Waits track every show. I soon learned that Tom Waits is 24 years and 10 days older than me, a little-known fact that features in the chorus of my tribute to TW, "It's Two A.M." (an anagram of Tom Waits), that features many references to his work. I began to cover many Tom Waits songs and make them my own.
Needless to say, Red Dress & the Sugar Man, had been a dream in the making for many years. I had the title; I had the opening stanza; I had the basic plot and I had a reasonable idea of what songs I wanted to include - songs among my favourites (I have an extremely long list) that I thought would best fit the story line. For a time I had a practice of writing a little of it in my special 'Red Dress' notebook every time I went on a flight. I wrote the first 2 stanzas this way, these 2 indelibly imprinted on my brain, then after finally completing the third, over 2 or 3 flights, I left my notebook on the plane, never to be seen again. Unable to recall the third part and convinced I could never recreate it, this took me out of the game for a couple of years.
Over the years, I kept the dream alive by sharing my some-day, one-day, plans until I eventually shared it with the right person. Fabulous guitarist, Rudi Katterl, had been doing some gigs with me and as it turns out, he was one half of Bright production company, MAD AS Productions with theatrical director, Ernie Glass. Ernie, also a mad Tom Waits fan, himself having written a Tom Waits stage show some decades beforehand, had recently compiled a one-act Patti Smith show and needed another one-act show to make a night of it.
And so it came to pass that I was invited to perform Red Dress & the Sugar Man in conjunction with the Patti Smith show, 'Because the Night'. This, of course, meant I had to finally knuckle down and write it. The inaugural performance of the two shows together was held in March 2016, at the fabulous Bright Courthouse Theatre. Inspired by the succulent imagery, poeticism and wordsmithery of TW's songs and spoken word, the storyline, characters and writing style are full of "Waitspiration" and although the concept and writing are of my own creation, there are a few short phrases/references that come directly from his work. The superb songs of course, are all his. I hope Red Dress & the Sugar Man serves to spark a new generation life long TW disciples, awakening creative juices and evoking madness and mayhem.
“Prepare yourself for this show, like you are visiting a certain kind of spa on a seedy side of town for some forbidden indecencies. Take a glass of Chivas Regal, hide yourself in the shadows and fall in love with Tom Waits all over again.”