“Quiet please there’s a lady on stage”.
These Peter Allen Lyrics about a famous Diva kept echoing in my head tonight as I watched Bernadette Robinson recreate Diva after Diva on the Playhouse stage of the Opera House. Appropriately perhaps, as Ms Robinson started with, and returned frequently to Judy Garland to anchor much of the evening.
To call it a one woman show is perhaps inaccurate, as Ms Robinson brings many women with her to the stage and treats us to tightly structured glimpses of what drives each of them to perform. The dialogue is generally woven within the songs, and it cleverly locks both character and text into the musical journey.
It’s a well-conceived and structured show, designed to show Ms Robinsons prodigious vocal talent and extraordinary ability to mimic some of the greatest voices of our time. Her technique is absolutely breathtaking. And while her Bassey and Garland and Piaf are wonderful, it was her Maria Callas that stopped the show. The clear bell like soprano notes were as unexpected as they were beautiful.
Of course it was opening night and I think it’s unfair to get reviewers in so early to a Cabaret style performance. The show started a little nervously and it was not until she hit the familiar territory of her extraordinary Piaf, that she really let herself relax into the performance. The second half of the show was immeasurably better and more engaging, but this small quibble will no doubt iron out with familiarity.
It was classily staged by co creator Richard Carroll on a simple stylised set of modern footlights by Lauren Peters with atmospheric lighting by Trent Suidgeest. And the musicianship of the band and the arrangements under the baton of Martine Wengrow was superb. There was a real clarity to the sound too thanks to Nick Reich which is essential for an evening where it’s important to hear every nuance of tone.
Fans of Ms Robinson will not be disappointed, and if your favorite divas are those strong, yet fragile pioneers with unique voices that pre-date the Beyonces or Gagas – then this is an evening for you.
Duet productions presents
THE SHOW GOES ON
created by Bernadette Robinson and Richard Carroll
Directed by Richard Carroll
Venue: Playhouse | Sydney Opera House NSW
Dates: 25 August – 10 September 2017
Tickets: from $69
Bookings: www.sydneyoperahouse.com | 02 9250 7777