Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go to Hollywood.
This is the byline of the talented Becks sisters show The Sin-Sational Rita and Mae.
Old Hollywood 20th century social conventions, raunchy references, sexual innuendo, catchy Jazz tunes complimented by the sisters talented voices and great scripting, are all implemented in an hour performance, that is guaranteed to stick with audiences for much longer.
Words Chloe Fakhri
PHOTOS Photographer: Peter A Hoyle
Golden Age films like Goin’ To Town (1935), Gilda (1946) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) is what sparked a passion and curiosity inside two young sisters who yearned to one day live their lives out on the stage.
And their dream became a reality.
Melody and Lucinda Beck are the leads in their own show The Sin-Sational Rita and Mae, playing real life Hollywood actresses Rita Hayworth and Mae West.
Rita Hayworth (1918-1987) was an American actress and singer born in Brooklyn, New York. Hayworth is known for being a WWII pin up girl and for her incredible career, starring in 61 films in just 37 years. She resembled all that the Hollywood industry yearned for female actresses to behave like.
Mary Jane ‘Mae’ West (1893-1980) spanned her career from New York to Hollywood as a singer, actress, comedian, playwright and screen writer. She is most famous for her comment, “I believe in censorship. I made a fortune in it.” West was a controversial figure, pushing social conventions and boundaries and creating a career out of being a Hollywood sex symbol.
The Beck sisters cleverly combined both characters into one performance, mimicking the Hollywood industry and juxtaposing Mae West who abided by social conventions with Rita Hayworth who was a provocative figure.
The show was just ten days into its course when I watched the talented girls perform at the small quirky theatre The Butterfly Club, off Little Collins street in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, for the Melbourne Fringe Festival.
Both sisters are trained singers in Classical music, Jazz, Musical Theatre and Contemporary.
The show consisted of the right amount of old jazz songs, musical verses, historical references, conversation and sexual innuendo, usually from Lucinda.
Melody entered the stage in a tight Hollywood inspired velvet sleeveless gown, while Lucinda followed wearing a form fitting black dress and a fur throw over, mimicking her character of Mae West to perfection.
Melody purchased her dress from the US and Lucinda from London, and they both had their hair in tight curls to further reflect the old Hollywood era they were trying to represent.
Melody’s voice remained strong and powerful throughout the show. You could have heard a pin drop in the room when she sang, especially as she hit the high notes. Lucinda is equally as talented, perfecting that old Hollywood sexy movie star voice, that remained consistent and fluent throughout her performance.
The girls were born into a family of performers, whom they attribute their creative genius to with family has roots in the Wirth’s Circus, Australia’s most prestigious circus company, starting out back in 1882.
Their mother, Jenny Beck is also a singing teacher and the girls took lessons from their mother and other singing teachers, which is who they credit their talented voices to.
“We’ve grown up side stage and our parents were in the Gilbert and Sullivan society, so we were always in the wings and singing along and page turning. That’s part of how we learnt to read music as well”, said Lucinda.
The Sin-Sational Rita and Mae was scripted by Melody and Jenny Beck, who ensured the script flowed fluently and logically, despite neither Rita or Mae ever meeting.
“Mae paved the way for Rita and then Rita paved the way for Mae to come back in’, said Lucinda.
Initially the show was just about Rita Hayworth but they decided to combine both actresses, because “they just missed each other but were still moving in the same circles just not at the same times in Hollywood”, said Melody.
This logical decision resulted in a show stopping performance filled with old school Jazz songs that gave you an urge to sing along and transported you to a time and era of Hollywood celebrities, and censorship in the media industry.
“It still resonates today, a lot of what they represented. Like Mae West was ahead of her times!”, said Melody.
She further added,
“they’re both femme fatales but in very different ways. They’ve both have very different values and approaches but they were pigeon holed in the same place.”
Aside from their successful careers on the stage, both sisters are also singing teachers, and are heavily involved in the music industry outside of performing.
Melody lives a double life working as receptionist at a pool in Sydney during the day and writing cabarets, auditioning and performing by night.
Lucinda is also a voice over artist and professional hair dresser.
When asked where to from here the girls were bursting with ideas and excited about the future opportunities they have planned.
Both sisters have organised to perform at the Perth Fringe Festival and Melbourne Comedy Show with ambitions to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next August, the world’s largest arts festival founded in 1947.
Planning has already started for future shows with so much preparation going into each performance from scripting, drafting, editing, rehearsing all the way to costuming, which is a particular favourite of the sisters.
“A lot of this show involved compiling autobiographies and quotes from both actresses, including their movies and direct quotes and songs from their films. And then figuring out how to gel those together to make it a show that actually flows, and create a story”, said Lucinda.
Finding a talented pianist also went into planning for the show. Throughout the duration of the performance the talented Daniele Buatti performed magically, never missing a beat and accompanying the girl’s performance without overpowering their voices.
You could sense and see the passion on his face throughout his act, only ever rotating his eyes from his piano to his sheet music.
Daniele has worked with talents such as Australian actress, singer and comedian Queenie Van De Zandt and singer and actress Amanda Harrison. His role extends from a pianist to an accompanist, arranger and musical director.
You can find Daniele working in cabarets across Australia and notable dance schools in Melbourne such as Patrick Studios Australia and Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance.
Daniele taught himself how to play the piano after enrolling himself in two music elective classes in Year Nine. He also plays the flute, cello and guitar but is in no time looking to take them up professionally, over the piano.
“Two weeks prior to my first semester, I convinced my older brother to buy a keyboard and I spent every night practising, right up until the beginning of the semester. Before purchasing the keyboard, I had taught myself my theory, learnt how to read and was practising on a paper keyboard I made in Microsoft Paint!”.
He is also the Music Director for Melbourne’s very own Broadway Unplugged.
“I work to bring together a bunch of artists that are performing in industry musicals around Melbourne, accompanied by myself and a three-piece band.”
Launched in 2013, Daniele has run the event for the past five years. The show consists of performers taking the stage monthly at Melbourne’s very own Toff in Town, located in Swanston street. Daniele arranges the acts, backs vocalists, rehearses with artists and performs.
But Daniele’s talents don’t stop there. He also hosts and performs several times a month at an event called Be You, that celebrates up and coming talent, at Melbourne’s Jazz Café.
The Sin-Sational Rita and Mae was a show that celebrated talent, promoted great artists and provided audiences with an entertaining evening filled with great singing, humorous historical references and transportation into an unfamiliar era, all whilst commemorating the good that came out of this old Hollywood industry.
With such a strong talent on the stage, all you felt like doing what getting up and performing! Or in my case, wishing I had the talent to perform!
The joy both sisters receive from performing, appreciation for all those who attended and passion they feel when singing and acting is felt by everyone in the room, from audience members sitting in the front row right to the lighting director up the back.
Their excitement extends right out to post-performance when they mingle with the audience plastering a contagious smile on their faces, creating a positive, energetic atmosphere and environment for all those who attended.
Such a talented trio – and a brilliant performance that I definitely recommend going to watch.