Adelaide-born Michaela Burger leapt to prominence with her terrific Piaf tribute Exposing Edith, and in her new and strikingly original show A Migrant’s Son stakes a credible claim to be one of Australia’s leading voices not only in cabaret, but much further afield.
The inspiration for the show, unsurprisingly given the title, is her father, born in Australia of poor and characteristically hard-working migrants. In common with so many migrant families, they had their ups and downs, made a few fortunes and lost them as well, but always anchored by the unswerving mantra, “family is everything”.
Burger has written a dozen or so excellent songs that chart her grandfather’s journey to Australia from war-torn Greece, his enterprising spirit, and the apparently-genetic disposition of his children to keep an eye out for opportunities. The songs are tinged with humour, like the opening What If—“what if they have no vine leaves and baklava is unknown” and there are nuggets of social insight, like the eminently practical Greek women petitioning the government to put numbers instead of names on bus routes to help new arrivals.
One big number, “I will rise, watch me rise” could easily close an Act I, or possibly open an Act II, were this a musical. Which makes you wonder if there is not a musical in there. With Burger in the lead, for her voice would readily grace any mainstage musical you can name. That A Migrant’s Son is sold out suggests many agree.