Writers: Stephanie Dodd & Justin Badger
The Fremonts are a married couple from the US, who have brought The Failure Cabaret to Underbelly at the Fringe this year. Stephanie Dodd plays the accordion, Justin Badger plays the guitar, and both are originally from towns called Fremont. Their story, told with original music, is dark, witty, and unique – thoroughly enjoyable.
The Failure Cabaret is a catalogue of all the failures these two have faced since meeting. Dodd looks and sounds like an edgy blond Bernadette Peters, while Badger has the recognisably wide smile and open face of an American. Their voices are individual, but they blend beautifully within their folky musical theatre mixture of song writing.
Beginning with a catalogue of their most significant failures, the duo weaves a story of their ill-fated love affair, plagued with the troubles that come from living in New York City and rich mountain towns. Their first big failure was getting married for housing, a problem distinctly understood by those who live in NYC. Next was to move to an affluent town in the Rocky Mountains and forego their creative dreams for lucrative day jobs, constantly affronted by self-righteous white people (affectionately termed “Boulder Jesuses”).
There is something so familiar about the issues they face: from the struggle to stick it out in the industry they love to battling mental health problems and unhelpful diagnoses, they’ve dealt with it all. And while they’ve come out on the other side of those problems, there’s still new ones to come at every turn.
The show is very well polished, with beautifully crafted melodies and wonderfully startling lyrics. In some of Dodd’s solo songs, Badger joins with a harmony over the top of Dodd’s line, which is unexpected and creates a luxuriously creamy sound. Their storytelling, discovery, and beat shifts are impeccably nuanced. Cabaret can often be rough and unpolished, and while this is gritty, it is also executed perfectly.
Producer Chuck Porter suggested the creation of a show during a late-night bar chat and must’ve known the result would be excellence. Dodd and Badger have taken their dysfunctional love story and created a masterpiece.
They have released an album of songs from the show, which is available for online purchase. However, their live performance contains so much more than just the music. Every detail, down to their matching water bottles, is an intricate and purposeful aspect of this twisted love letter to each other and is a delight to experience.
Runs at Underbelly, Cowgate – Belly Laugh until 28 August 2022