The Carpenters tribute show was one of the most popular acts on the cabaret circuit a few years ago, with the voice of Shirley Thomas eerily recreating the mellow sounds of Karen Carpenter, and Darren Mapes providing the musical prowess of Richard Carpenter.

Tragically, Thomas was diagnosed with cancer and lost her battle for life at the end of last year. It has been three years since Mapes last donned Richard’s blond wig.

The last few shows Shirley and I did were small gigs, when she was well enough to do them, he recalls.

At that time, my business partner Linda and I had come up with the idea of changing the show. Rather than us being Karen and Richard Carpenter, we would be Sharon and Darren Carpenter from Kempsey who have modelled their lives on their music idols and come to the city to sing Carpenters songs.

We were working on the script as Shirley started to get sick, and so we never got to do it. It was unfinished business, so I really wanted to do it and see how it would go.

The new show, The Carpenters From Kempsey, has at last made its way to the stage and is currently playing at the Statement Lounge Bar in Market Street, with musical theatre talent Lisa Adam singing the vocals of Karen Carpenter.

Adam, who was hilarious when last seen in the cult hit Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical, brings a new style to the music of The Carpenters, and Mapes says she fits with the new show perfectly.

Shirley was an absolute freak in terms of her voice, but Lisa brings with her a whole different set of attributes and talents. She has an amazing singing range and at times sounds very much like Karen, and her comic timing is spot on.

This new show is very much about the comedy, and while we still do the music of The Carpenters, it is being done by these country hicks, he says, adding the playlist of Carpenters favourites includes Close To You, Yesterday Once More and We’ve Only Just Begun.

Mapes has high hopes for this new Carpenters show beyond the season at the Statement Bar, but he fondly recalls his favourite gig was the 2001 Taylor Square Christmas Carols when The Carpenters performed with the Gay and Lesbian Choir.

There were thousands of queens crammed into the square for the carols, and everyone was singing along at the top of their voices and waving their candles, he laughs. I got the giggles on stage as the crowd knew every word and was singing along so loudly, they drowned us out. It was the most hysterical experience and one of our greatest highlights.

The Carpenters From Kempsey plays at the Statement Lounge Bar, 49 Market Street, Sydney, until 29 October. Bookings through Ticketek on 132 849.

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