Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Dunstan Playhouse
Until 16 Jun 2018

Review by Fran Edwards

I am ashamed to say that I had never heard of Yma Sumac until this production was included in the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. This lady had a truly amazing voice, some thought it to be six octaves but it was definitely over five. Ali McGregor, another singer with an amazing range has taken on the task of introducing Adelaide audiences to this unusual, talented woman.

McGregor is clearly a fan and has researched her subject; even purchasing costumes and jewelry that belonged to the singer. She sought extra information from Yma’s assistant and built the story of her performing life and some of the backstage drama that accompanied it. In the costumes, with her hair dressed the same she even resembles pictures of the singer.

We are taken from her modest beginnings in Peru to Hollywood where she became famous for the Mambo and her exotic performance and appearance. Sumac was accompanied by her guitar-playing husband and her cousin Cholita. This trio played the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall, and they also toured extensively overseas. When the popularity dried a little Sumac played smaller venues as an exotic act.

McGregor tells the story with sympathy and is superb in recreating the individual sound that was Yma Sumac. The purity of her voice and the amazing sound she controls so beautifully are impressive. Unfortunately, I was unable to record the names of her supporting musicians although she did acknowledge and thank them. I am glad that I learned about this extraordinary singer and her story.