It's unlikely that Harry S. Truman had JoJo Bellini's Kitchen Cabaret in mind when he coined his favourite phrase, “If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”, but his advice has never been more apt. For those who relish baldly sexual food-based antics, the show is sure to delight, but audiences hoping for any degree of depth, subtlety or sophistication will find little to enjoy.
Inspired by her Welsh heritage, Bellini soundtracks the preparation of classic Welsh dishes with enthusiastic covers of Tom Jones' greatest hits. But for a show that relies so heavily on music, Bellini's voice is surprisingly weak. She has little control over her severely limited range, and moments where her key happens to coincide with the song's are rare. Her attempts to bulldoze over her vocal deficiencies with volume and forcefulness meet with little success.
Her comic timing less than precise, she gains laughs most reliably through her aggressively sexual approach to the performing and culinary arts. Shouting her way through Jones's songbook, she gurns with quasi-orgasmic pleasure while tossing chopped broccoli into her broth, before having her lascivious way with a fresh leek. Her attentions soon turn to a reticent audience, who are coaxed into participation with varying levels of success.
The production at least partly delivers on its promise of 'a hilarious show filled with fun, food, and the songs of Tom Jones', though the exact levels of hilarity and fun involved may depend on the individual's tolerance for crudely sexual, and often physical, audience interaction. But while the belly laughs of much of the room are hard to deny, JoJo Bellini's Kitchen Cabaret is a wholly unremarkable piece of performance.