Rhonda Burchmore is probably more a Spicks and Specks kinda girl than a RockWiz fan but she would be a dead-set winner for the section of that show where guests answer questions on a musical topic of their choice.
It's hard to imagine a single aspect of the life and times of Julie London that she wouldn't know by heart – plus she'd get extra points for singing the songs.
Over the 90 minutes or so of Rhonda's performance it's easy to see why the multi-talented, husky voiced, curvaceous singer-dancer and actor Ms Burchmore chose to present a show on the multi-talented, husky voiced, curvaceous singer-dancer and actor Ms London.
As Burchmore herself says part-way through: "The only different between us is nine inches." Somehow, she even manages to make that sound sexy.
Rather than act out the life story of the glamorous singer, Burchmore narrates the story in a rather documentary style, which jarred a little at the start but worked overall; it's done with sympathy and panache, enriched with some personal commentary from Burchmore, which stops it from becoming too clinical or dry.
Much kudos must go the backing band, The LA Combo, led by Ray Alldridge, who are consummate professionals – even to the point that Burchmore struggles at times to get any interaction with them, they're so focused on the music.
As the subject of the show, London's life was blessed with some luck, much strength and a serve of tragedy; it took some interesting twists and turns, included a fascinating mixture of people and its telling confirms how fine the line can be between great acclaim and anonymity, irrespective of talent.
In hindsight, however, what intrigued me the most was her versatility and output – and how quickly the world forgets those who behave well. Intensely private and averse to publicity, Julie London lived a relatively quiet life for a Hollywood superstar, which might explain why her name has fallen from the world's consciousness, while many of her contemporaries – Judy Garland springs to mind – are better remembered.
Cry Me a River – written by her high school classmate, Arthur Hamilton – is a song many believe she still 'owns', but I had no idea she also sang versions of Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, Fly Me to the Moon, Blue Moon and The End of The World, plus a swag of other blues and jazz numbers.
Burchmore reminds us that London released an awe-inspiring 33 albums, appeared in about 20 movies – starring opposite leads such as Robert Taylor, Gary Cooper, Robert Mitchum, John Drew Barrymore, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum – as well as appearing in scores of television shows, from Rawhide to the role of nurse, Dixie McCall in Emergency!
She was also a popular war-time pin-up girl and became the face of Marlboro, which might account for the smoky tones.
London's voice was sultry and understated, effortlessly emotional. If anything, Burchmore's doesn't quite live up to it, but if not for this tribute show, I would not have re-listened to a few London classics on YouTube and I'd be none the wiser. It proved a great evening's entertainment, and reminder of a talented performer.
Dennis Smith presents
Cry Me a River – the World of Julie London
by Rhonda Burchmore and Gary Young based on an original treatment by Frank Howson
Director: Gary Young
Venue: Comedy Theatre
Dates: August 16 – 19, 2012
Tickets: $54.50 – $69.50
Running time: Approx 2 hours (with interval)