Times of My Life celebrates her contemporaries and forefathers, on stage and small screen; in so doing, it proves something of an instructive history lesson, a veritable masterclass, for the WAAPA gen Y set.
But times goes a lot further and deeper than a few songs strung together with throwaway, romanticised half-truths, plumbing, as it does, the highs and lows, of which there’ve been many, of a showbiz lifetime.
From halcyon days as a Shirley Temple wannabe, to hospitalisation for addiction to pethidine. From marital bliss to the despair of an ex driven to suicide. It’s quite a journey. In fact, it’s hard to imagine one could be so revealing about one’s tumultuous, rollercoaster life, under spotlights, and hold back the tears. But, as my mother has observed, Toni’s a ‘trouper’.
Co-written with her equally gifted son, Tony Sheldon, musically directed by maestro, Michael Tyack and accompanied by Lindsay Partridge, this golden girl explores the golden days of Australian entertainment.
While never resisting any opportunity for a dramatic moment, everything rings and is true. It’s brave and moving; Lamond effortlessly seduces her audience into feeling whatever she has, or is.
A large screen is used to reflect memory and to recall those gone, but not forgotten, as well as some very much still with us. Peter Adams has done a sterling job of salvaging precious glimpses of the glitterati, starting with Toni’s largely absent mum, Stella (Lamond) and father Jo(e) Lawman; who once stood in for Australia’s Chaplin, comic luminary Roy Rene (Mo McCaughey). From there, bygone legends like Tommy Trinder, George Wallace and Buster Fiddes, with whom Lamond co-starred in sketches. And, of course, The King, Waggers, Don Lane, Mike Walsh.
She hasn’t done Dallas (come to think of it, she probably has), but she’d done Hollywood, London, Annie, The Pajama Game, Pirates, Mame.
There were a few fluffs, but it’s early in the season. And nothing can disparage this anti-diva’s thorough professionalism. TL is like good wine: the fruit was always on the vine, but maturity has enhanced the flavours no end.
Whether it’s a joke (two cannibals eating a clown; one says, ‘does this taste funny to you?’), a cabaret classic, narrative, an anecdote or aside, Lolly Legs (as Noel Ferrier dubbed her) never misses a beat.
All is woven carefully, cleverly and seamlessly, making for a touching tribute, thanks to her generosity of spirit, not only to the lady on stage, but all who’ve entered into her wonderful life. Her ‘singing up’ her beloved almost penetrated my cynical heavy armour (what was that latent moisture, in the corner of my eye?). Toni and Frank made unwitting history as the first-ever performers on Australian television and the former was the fist woman in the world with her own show, predating the big O by decades.
The show opens with I Get Around, which betrays La Lolly’s gypsy existence and her comfort with it. And with every twist and turn down a tarnished yellow brick road, she brings us a little bit closer.
Are entertainers born, or made? Yes! This one had no choice, but, one more than suspects, wouldn’t have had it any other way. And life, not always wonderful, has shaped her into a shining star who, at three-score-and-ten, then some, is like a beacon, to anyone who has lived a little themselves.
The world needs more Toni Lamonds.
TIMES OF MY LIFE
A new play with music
by Toni Lamond and Tony Sheldon
Venue: Seymour Centre, cnr Cleveland Street and City Road, Chippendale
Season: 29 April – 11 May 2008
Times: Tuesday 6.30pm; Thursday to Saturday 8pm; Sunday 5pm
Matinee: Wednesday 11am
Prices: Adult $45; Concession $38
Bookings: 02 9351 7940 and www.seymourcentre.com.au