Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Respect: A Musical Journey of Women, Crown Casino, May 30, 2007

 Respect: A Musical Journey of Women
by Dorothy Marcic adapted by Beatrix Christian
Where and When: The Palms at Crown, May 30 to July 15, 2007
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 30, 2007

Respect: A Musical Journey of Women, by Dorothy Marcic and directed by Roger Hodgman, is less a dramatic piece of music theatre than a good excuse for a bunch of 20th century hit tunes.

The inimitable Rhonda Burchmore plays Dodi Calquhoun, a jaded Broadway star. Dodi is preparing three young hopefuls (Lucy Durack, Belinda Wollaston, Elenoa Rokobaro OK) to audition for a musical inspired by Marcic’s real bestseller, Dorothy’s Story that celebrates the lives of Marcic’s grandmothers and mother.

This backroom musical, set in a rehearsal studio, focuses on the relationships and on Dodi’s encouragement of the youngsters. On arrival, each demonstrates nervousness and is in awe of Dodi’s experience but all evolve as performers under her direction.

The program states that Respect is the story of a Norwegian girl in New York in 1900, and of her female descendants. Intermittent readings from a storybook are scattered amidst the story of the young auditonees. This historical story serves no dramatic purpose, has no narrative development, is too expository, is unengaging and comes to no resolution. It could be omitted so we can concentrate on the on-stage characters.

Burchmore is all long limbs, throaty voice, quivering vibrato and bolshie characterisation, drawing the eye with her eccentric showgirl looks and idiosyncratic delivery. Her experience shines and the trio of young women are a fine supporting cast.

Burchmore’s solos, backed by the trio, are highlights. She is brassy in Bill Bailey, sassy singing These Boots Are Made for Walking in a Barbarella mini-dress and the soul number, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. and magnetic prancing across the stage belting out I Will Survive.

Rokobaro, as the painfully shy Grace, has a warm, heartfelt blues voice. Her God Bless the Child and the Black activist song, Ain’ Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around are thrilling.

Durack, playing dizzy Rikki, performs a song as well as she sings it. You Don’t Own Me gives meaning to the lyrics and Someone to Watch Over Me is charming.

Wollaston has a powerful voice but is best when she holds back, maintaining the warmth in her voice. Her opening song, Greatest Love of All, was hilariously overplayed but an occasional harshness or flat note might stem from playing the pushy Miriam.

Some of the best musical moments were when the three girls sang together doing an Andrews Sisters number, Stop In The Name of Love and a rivetting version of Hero, by Mariah Carey.

By Kate Herbert

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