Up Close and Reasonably Personal | Amanda HarrisonLeft – Amanda Harrison. Photo – Kurt Sneddon

There is no doubt at all Amanda Harrison is a musical theatre star in the best traditions of the genre. She is possessed of a wonderful voice, she has remarkable vocal length and expression and she can “sell” a song to perfection. Her extensive musical career (Wicked, We Will Rock You, Les Miserables and Boy From Oz) has seen her describe an arc from hit show to hit show with barely a pause for breath, never mind marriage and two children.

Throughout the performance I, and the full house audience, were constantly amazed and delighted by her vocal strength and range. The song arrangements and piano accompaniment were interesting and provided an excellent and varied programme.

Harrison is beautiful and vivacious, however I felt that she is a performer who needed a stronger script with tighter dialogue to create the best possible outcome. The audience is introduced to the varied facets of her life as a performer, wife and mother of two. Understandably she is stretched close to breaking point, which results in her leaving her show business commitments from time to time.

The first half of the show involved a fair bit of setting up for her story of ups and downs. Chatty as she was, I never felt “up close and reasonably personal” with Harrison and that was because her dialogue was so predictable. Her strength is song, and as with so many recent musicals the storyline is in the song. Think Wicked. So much of the dialogue was unnecessary and rather laboured.

The second half of the show was distinctly snappier. It opened with the remarkably clever piano accompanist Bev Kennedy launching into a song from Wizard with clever, breathy and faux flat delivery.

The running gag was her obsession with songs from Wizard and Harrison’s reluctance to deliver said numbers. I was pleased to note the loud audience acclaim for Kennedy. She was a remarkable pianist and an adept foil to Harrison.

Harrison also works as a vocal character artist and we were treated an excerpt from one of her characters. Hilda Crinkle from the animated series Get Ace currently showing on Galaxy Pop and Channel 10. Germanic and theatrically bossy, Crinkle gave us her interpretation of Send in the Clowns which morphed into Harrison’s own rendition; a cabaret standard beautifully presented.

There was an hilarious rock pop version of Never Tear us Apart complete with wind machine and all the well-known rock pop diva theatrics. It brought the house down. The Rose was exquisitely rendered and drew satisfied sighs from the audience.

Finally, seemingly bowing to pressure, Harrison closed with the lovely The Wizard and I.

Amanda Harrison
Up Close and Reasonably Personal
by James Millar

Musical Director Bev Kennedy

Venue: Downstairs at the Maj | His Majesty's Theatre, 825 Hay Street, Perth
Dates: 21 – 23 August 2014
Tickets: $33.64 – $42.82
Bookings: www.ticketek.com.au

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