Danielle Asciak. Picture: Supplied

One of the 20th century's leading divas has proven more than artistic inspiration for emerging Australian cabaret talent Danielle Asciak - this particular melodic muse has let her get her mojo back.

Asciak is a cabaret performer and theatre maker from Melbourne who is bringing her new show Just an Old Fashioned Grrrl! to Fringe World this weekend.

The show is Asciak's way of paying tribute to the cabaret artist who she claims resurrected her spirit during recent low times. This artist is Eartha Kitt - the ineffable, enigmatic star who came from the other side of the tracks to leave a lasting impression on the international entertainment stage.

"It's funny . . . I don't know what made me seek out her songs (on Spotify) that day on my way to work," Asciak explains on the line from Melbourne.

"It was at the beginning of this year - and I was going through a difficult time. I'd just come out of a short-term fling with a Puerto Rican man - it was a horrible relationship and it left me in a heap."

"But, for whatever reason, when I hooked in to Kitt's music it just pulled me out of it."

Asciak attributes her resonant connection with Kitt not only to the sound but to the spirit of this great woman who was known for breaking conventions in raw, honest style.

"She was fearless," Asciak says. "And she wasn't at all the perfect star . . . she was real, almost crazy at times and I was drawn to that honesty as well.

"So, after reading heaps of biographies and listening to hours of interviews with Kitt, I discovered so many qualities in her that fit with me and my own performance style.

"I trained at the Melbourne Conservatorium in classical voice. And everyone there was being trained to sound exactly like everyone else. But since I have discovered cabaret I have been learning to find my own voice and accept my own voice.

"And Eartha definitely had her own voice, and it wasn't a technically brilliant voice at all. In fact, many critics will tell you it's not a good voice at all. But she was a package, she had a special quality, and she wasn't afraid to push into unknown territory."

In Just an Old Fashioned Grrrl! Asciak performs 15 of Kitt's songs - from her classic hits of the 50s like I Wanna Be Evil to lesser- known tracks.

"I've selected songs that mean something to me and my connection with Eartha - and the audience has loved that mix of the light and dark in the show. I mean, some numbers are a bit risque - I even do a bit of bellydancing - but ultimately it's an expression of me and the music.

And I've never felt more at home in a performance than I do in this show."

The West Australian

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