Charismatic and charming Adelaide songstress Louise Messenger is bringing her much loved Doris Day tribute back to Fringe Festival.
Playing this time at The Jade Monkey, A Sentimental Journey: The Music of Doris Day has had a couple of successful outings since its inception.
She spoke to us as part of our 16 for ’16 spectacular and told us all about it.
“I did it in 2012 and then I was asked to do it as part of an Onkaparinga Council initiative called the Winter Warmers series,” Louise says. “Then the following year I did it again. I’ve had a lot of requests to bring it back, so I’ve rewritten it and streamlined it a bit; I’m doing it as a one-hour show.
“I’ve also taken requests from people who said, “I really loved your show, but you didn’t play this song from this movie”. It’s been a fantastic opportunity to add some new material and revamp some old material. I’m really excited about it.”
But Louise’s return appearance at Fringe almost didn’t happen, and was a very last minute decision prompted by family, friends and fans.
“It was the very last day of registrations and I was in Sydney at the time. My other project is called The Boswell Project, which is a three-part harmony group. We played the Fringe last year and had an absolute blast and a great season, but we decided we didn’t want to overplay in Adelaide, because there’s only a finite group of people who are going to come and see you,” she says.
“We decided to give the Fringe a miss this year and do it again in 2017. But then I was talking to my mum and she said, “Why don’t you do that Doris Day show? I love that Doris Day show!” and I said, “Oh, mum! I’ve done that show. People don’t want to see it again!”. So I did a quick Facebook post asking if I should do it and the response was overwhelming! I had so many comments and messages!”
Louise uploaded her registration without having booked a venue; that is, until she remembered the perfect place for Doris Day.
“I had a massive freak out about finding a venue, but then I thought of The Jade Monkey, where I’ve been to lots of gigs in the past. It’s just gorgeous with that fantastic aqua curtain and it’s just screaming to have a 1950s show in there,” she laughs.
Although A Sentimental Journey is a tribute show, Louise isn’t impersonating Doris, nor is she reciting a biography; the show will be a celebration of Doris’ music and Louise’s connection with it.
“It’s a little bit of a narrative about my relationship with Doris Day and how she’s inspired me. I tell some stories and anecdotes from her life, and link it to the different movies she was in. It’s really a journey through her screen history, rather than a personal journey; it’s not a chronological tale of her life,” she says.
“And I’m not trying to be her, I’m not dressing up as her, although I do have some very gorgeous 1950s frocks that I wear. It’s really an homage to the things that made her who she was, and also what it was about her that made her so well loved by everybody.”
Her love of Doris Day may have stemmed from her mother’s interest in musicals, but Louise became enamoured with the character of Calamity Jane all on her own.
“When I was a kid, my mum was really into the old musicals, so we’d always watch Bill Collins Presents on a Saturday night. I really loved Fred Astaire and anything with dancing and costumes. I was about nine when I first saw Calamity Jane, and it was just so different to a lot of the other studio musicals,” she says.
“I was a bit of a tomboy and Jane was, not only beautiful, but she was strong, feisty and no one told her what to do! She was shooting guns and riding horses; it was really thrilling. Then, when she had a dress on, she was the most beautiful at the ball and her voice was divine. I just fell in love with her.
“My mum found found me an actual 1950s cowgirl costume from an op shop and I would dress up and play Calamity Jane in my backyard by myself. I had an old pram I would drag behind me pretending it was a Deadwood Stage,” she laughs.
Choosing a favourite Doris Day song is a little like Sophie’s Choice for Louise, but she let us in on a few secrets.
“Oh that’s too hard! I love ‘The Deadwood Stage’, ‘Que Sera Sera’ and ‘Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps’, but a lot of her lesser known stuff is what I really love. She had a fantastic trio album in the ‘60s with a jazz piano player called André Previn, and the songs from that are magnificent. It really showcases what she could have been if she was a jazz singer rather than in movies and musicals,” she says.
She’ll be performing a few of those hits and some lesser known works, much to the delight of Doris Day fans.
“I do stuff from her very first movie. I do a song called, ‘Put ‘Em in a Box (tie ‘em with a ribbon and throw ‘em in the deep blue sea)’ – there are some really corny and cute songs she does,” she laughs. “There may also be an appearance by my daughter on ukulele. It’s a bit of a family affair.”
Being a regular performer around Adelaide, Louise is no stranger to Fringe Festival, but it doesn’t make her any less excited about the upcoming mad months.
“I’m looking forward to meeting different people. The audience are always fantastic at Fringe, because they come from a really broad range. Some of them have really personal stories they want to share after the show. People will come and say, “I really love that, because my mum used to love this musical”, or “my dad used to sing this around the house”. There’s a lot of those stories; it’s really heart warming,” she says.
“And I love hanging out at the Fringe Bar, I love the weather, I love The Garden and I love going to see other people’s shows. I love supporting local artists, because I know how much we all put on the line.”
You can catch Louise Messenger in A Sentimental Journey: The Music of Doris Day on February 13, 14 and 17. Book your tickets HERE.
By Libby Parker
Libby Parker is a journalist, teacher and life enthusiast.
You can follow her on Twitter at @upsidenews_lib