Respect – The MusicalLeft - Rhonda Burchmore. Cover (l-r) Elenoa Rokobaro, Lucy Durack and Belinda Wollaston

Respect – The Musical
is a light-hearted celebration of women and their place in American popular song. It is a fun and well-realised show that many ticket-buying Sydneysiders would certainly enjoy.

Starring the delectably dizzying Rhonda Burchmore as Dodie, it tells the story of an experienced Broadway musicals diva spending an afternoon with three young women auditioning for a new show. It’s a kind of light-hearted teachathon covering the craft of the trade and the story of women and music in the 20th Century.

This allows the four performers to cover classics from Someone To Watch Over Me (Gershwin Bros – 1924) to Mariah Carey’s Hero. Via a cutsie-pie I Want To Be Loved by You, God Bless The Child, Don’t Fence Me In, Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend, Stand By Your Man, and others, we head into Women’s Lib in the 1960s with These Boots are Made for Walking, I Am Woman, I Will Survive and – ultimately Respect – in a rousing finale.

Between tunes there is patter between the characters about their hopes and fears as emerging artists. Dodie offers sage advice.

The production has its origins in research into the history of women and song by American academic and writer, Dorothy Marcic. This Australian version has been directed by the highly capable Roger Hodgman from a reworked (and reset in Australia) adaptation by Beatrix Christian.

Among those behind the scenes supporting Hodgman are Kellie Dickerson (musical director), Dana Jolly (choreography) and Christina Smith (sets and costumes). The production is well unified and all involved look like they are having fun.

The cast is good with Burchmore, impressive as the experienced showbiz professional, taking the younger women – Lucy Durack, Belinda Wollaston and Elenoa Rokobaro – through their paces as they prepare for the audition.

So you get the idea. It’s the ideal show for a bunch of girlfriends looking for a fun way to start off the night; and I think even the odd young man might agree to go along on the arm of a new crush. It goes without saying, popular song buffs and show-song groupies are also going to have a good time.

Respect – The Musical premiered in Melbourne some months ago and has been touring other cities nationally. Whether it attracts its deserving audience in Sydney is another thing. This is the big smoke, the production has arrived with almost no fanfare; and has been booked into the State Theatre – a gorgeous locale - but a massive auditorium. I worry it might disappear without trace before those who would enjoy it realize it’s here.

Talent scouts should definitely slip in to check out 17-year-old Elenoa Rokobaro. Of islander background (I guess) this young women, just completing school this year, has a definite future. One to watch.

Respect: A Musical Journey

Venue: State Theatre | 49 Market Street, Sydney
Dates: Tues – Sun 1 November 2007 - 25 November 2007
Tickets: Adult $49.90 | Concession $44.90
Bookings: Ticketmaster

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