Friday, 23 February 2018
The Show Goes On, Feb 20, 2018 ****
By Bernadette Robinson & Richard Carroll
At Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne until March 11, 2018
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun in print after Feb 20, 2018. KH
Bernadette Robinson has a startling capacity to inhabit famous, female singers, and The Show Goes On showcases her virtuosic singing.
With remarkable skill, Robinson channels the idiosyncratic voices of exceptional divas: Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Patsy Cline, Shirley Bassey, Julie Andrews and Maria Callas, the operatic star who personifies the term 'diva'.
All these women found fame, most experienced anxiety and several suffered tragedy, and Robinson links their lives by singing the poignant tune, The Show Goes On, at intervals throughout the show.
In this production created with director, Richard Carroll, Robinson, wearing a simple, black cocktail dress, is alone on a nearly empty stage, accompanied by a trio of accomplished musicians.
She self-narrates the renowned singers’ stories, interweaving their signature tunes to construct a compelling sound and word picture depicting each woman’s complex emotional and musical life.
As Garland, she perches nervously on an armchair or teeters on high heels, recalling her childhood at MGM, and singing The Trolley Song with Garland's distinctive, bold tone.
Robinson performs an exceptional feat, singing a 'duet' between Garland and Streisand – playing both women by shifting accent and vocal style in a beat.
Later, she presents a second, clever and funny 'duet' by Garland with Andrews, and the women’s vocal differences – Andrews’ toffy, rounded vowels compared with Garland's brash, American accent – generate laughs.
Robinson does not impersonate these women or attempt to replicate their exact vocal stylings, but she captures their tone, accent, timbre, rhythm and character to bring them to life.
Perhaps her most accurate vocal depiction is Piaf, whose steely tone and distinctive vibrato Robinson captures impeccably singing La Vie En Rose and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.
Although The Show Goes On has no linear narrative, the common thread connecting these women is their love of music, passion for singing and the power of song in their lives.
By Kate Herbert