Tucked into the Dragon Gallery of the Chinese Museum, House of the Heart is a different sort of cabaret show to what Finucane & Smith generally deliver. It’s still got the diverse selection of talented guests, the catwalk set-up (albeit a little truncated and cozy within the venue) and Finucane herself as mistress of ceremonies and general assembler of acts from far and wide.  

But House of the Heart rings deeper, more personal, as it's full of song and text-based expressions that truly do come from the heart and memories of all performers. With the exception of Raksha Parsnani’s super fun belly/bolly style-dancing and some short contemporary dance bursts from Paul Cordeiro, the content is musical and vocal based and allows the artists space to express themselves with a vulnerability and honesty that rings true. All are exceptionally skilled and generous in their offerings. The entire show (two one-hour acts) weaves together with a resilience and optimism, despite some heavy and harrowing stories. 

The artists are from Asian, multi-racial and First Nations backgrounds. Finucane has worked abroad extensively with Chinese and Hong Kong artists and has a long-standing relationship with the Chinese Museum. Location and cast, not to mention the timing with Chinese New Year, makes House of the Heart more than a lucky dip of acts. It's a carefully crafted affair. 

With such a grouping, there is no shortage of interpretations of home and belonging, from multi-instrumentalist Sophie Koh’s songs and yarns about her Malaysian mother coming to New Zealand, raising 12 children and living to 103 to Cordeiro’s monologue about trying to fit into a white Australia from Singapore as a Portuguese/Chinese/Thai child.  

Indigenous Ngarluma jazz blues singer Lois Olney, a personal friend of Finucane's for over forty years, reminisces about seeing Nina Simone and covers Feeling Good. She is equally amazing in her original work, with a song about her father, the strapping horseman, whom she barely knew.

Highlights include cello by Xiao Xiao, gut-punching songs by rising-star Chinese-classical-turned-pop-singer, Zi Tao, and an especially moving number from Dave Johnston (also Olney’s accompanist,) that is inspired by his work with incarcerated youth. Rachel Lewindon backs up on the keyboard, even in non-singing acts, and musically directs the whole show.  

Being in the business such a long time, Finucane & Smith have incredible contacts across genres and artists and have the knack for making every show an event not to be missed. And this is where House of the Heart really excels, as Finucane, front of house, and Smith, directing from off stage, create an environment conducive for intimacy, that still feels brassy, fun and out of the ordinary. 

With Shirley Cattunar, 88 years young, doing an encore of Stand By Me and bringing the house down, House of the Heart, like all Finucane & Smith works, champions and respects artists of all ages and backgrounds. A lot of things in this world are described as inclusive, but, in this case, that adjective is especially apt.  

Event details

Finucane & Smith present
House of the Heart

Venue: The Chinese Museum | Chinatown, 22 Cohen Place, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 2 – 12 February 2023
Tickets: $88 – $58
Bookings: www.trybooking.com


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