Hayden Tee made his Australian debut of his new solo show Bad Guy at Adelaide Cabaret Festival yesterday and it was musical enchantment. Hayden Tee, in real life a nice guy, is in the theatre world always cast as the bad guy. This show looks at the roles he has played, and he performs their songs. Tying the show together is also the examination and celebration of takatapui, a Māori word that existed long before colonisation, not just recognising but celebrating LGBTQIA+ people.
Accompanist Nigel Ubrihien introduces Hayden Tee to the stage as “the Jessica Rabbit of Australian musical theatre. He’s not bad, he’s just drawn that way”. Performed with 6 musicians, cello, violin, double bass, drums, guitar and piano, Hayden Tee’s Bad Guy was performed to an enthusiastic audience at Adelaide’s Dunstan Playhouse.
Bad Guy starts will a familiar song, one not from a musical, but from the 80s charts: Michael Jackson’s “Bad” mashed up with Eartha Kitt’s “I wanna be evil”. I’ve never heard Bad sung at that tempo and in that pitch. It was impressive. Similarly, before launching into songs from musicals, we were treated to a sublime slowed down version of Crowded House’s “Into Temptation”.
There were songs from familiar musicals and songs from lesser familiar musicals for Australian audiences. Familiar were songs from The Little Mermaid, Matilda the Musical, Les Misérables and Cabaret. Less familiar were songs from the musicals Damn Yankees (one Hayden Tee told us in our interview that he would like to play the role of the devil in: Ray Walston’s “Those Were the Good Old Days” and from 1776 Sherman Edwards pro-slavery song “Molasses to Rum”.
Hayden Tee’s mashup of Radiohead’s “Creep” with The Police’s “Every step you take” leads us to dark places.
Hayden Tee’s experience in musical theatre is evident watching him on stage – not only does he have an incredible voice, he is extremely expressive whether through his facial expressions or his hand and arm movements.
Between songs, Hayden Tee continues his discussion of what it is to be a bad guy, and what characterises bad as opposed to good. This includes a discussion of apophenia, which is the tendency to put meaning where there is none –he proves the point with his attempt to make his musicians look like bad guys by making them wear and use props commonly associated with the bad guy in film and theatre.
He also talks about how we’re taught from an early age to identify difference –for example Sesame Street with its oranges and apples. And that the bad guy gets punished. Hayden Tee claims that “The opposite of good is not bad, it’s apathy” to which he receives applause.
Hayden Tee also provides us with a brief history lesson in Bad Guy from pre-colonial times to 1553 when Henry VIII’s law criminalising homosexuality spread to the colonies, through to the far more recent times of queer coding in the 50s and 60s.
Hayden Tee wants to shout the word takatapui on stages far and wide and encourages the audience to say it with him. He encourages the audience to embrace everything the good and the bad, the naughty and the nice.
Bad Guy is not just a show for lovers of musicals. Even if you’re not a fan of musicals, and aren’t familiar with their songs, there is still plenty for you to enjoy in Bad Guy. Hayden Tee is a polished performer with an extraordinary range and the message woven throughout this show is one that should be shared widely.
Unfortunately, Bad Guy was being performed at Adelaide Cabaret Festival for one show only. Hayden Tee will be in Jekyll and Hyde which is due to hit stages in Sydney in August. In the meantime, read our interview with him here and our other cabaret festival coverage via the links below.
Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Cabaret Festival
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