Having watched and critiqued some outstanding productions of late, Melbourne is indeed a leading hub for visiting international, and especially, home-grown, world-class talent. One of these national living treasures is Bernadette Robinson.
Her professional stage credits include Cats, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Venetian Twins. A versatile artist, she has sung at high – profile corporate events around the world in English and where required, in local languages, too. But that’s not all. Robinson, it should also be noted, was a regular guest on Channel Ten’s hit television series, The Comedy Company.
It is her uncanny knack for mimicry, however, for which she is best-known, loved and worshipped. Robinson’s catalogue of iconic divas includes Julie Andrews, Shirley Bassey, Maria Callas, Patsy Cline, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, and Barbra Streisand.
Building powerhouse experiences around this particular capacity, to date, her one-woman cabarets include:
▪ Calling All Angels
▪ Patsy Cline: Her Songs, Her Story
▪ Pennsylvania Avenue
▪ Songs For Nobodies
▪ You Might As Well Live.
Robinson’s latest outing, The Show Goes On, plays for a strictly-limited season until March 11 at the Arts Centre Melbourne’s – Fairfax Studio.
With a swift running time of seventy – five minutes, her tribute’s gripping, emotional heart can be found in its gentle simplicity. Further more, there is a deep and unwavering reverence for her cast of characters.
In terms of its structure, the show smoothly fluctuates between dark understatement and bright electricity.
From the outset, Robinson’s celebrity personas are slowly introduced one by one, in turn, to the audience. Allowing us access to their souls, each reveals small tidbits of personal and professional information about their lives, and essentially, what makes them tick. As Robinson channels her troupe’s singing and speaking voices, she matches these famous attributes with their trademark facial and physical mannerisms as well.
The show’s spectacular set list features eighteen classics, including ‘The Trolley Song’, ‘You Made Me Love You’, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, ’I Fall To Pieces’, ‘La Vie En Rose’, ‘Una Voce Poco Fa’ and ‘Over The Rainbow’. (The title piece by Bruce Hornsby bookends the overall journey.)
Robinson’s special gifts don’t stop there.
She takes her skills to another level, fusing tunes and stars together, and in several numbers, switches between artists with each line. Two standout examples include ‘Get Happy / Happy Days Are Here Again’, and ‘A Foggy Day’.
As The Show Goes On details between songs, these legends are at times, connected by insurmountable challenges. What ultimately drives them to succeed, is a shared self – belief in their innate talent. Equal parts glass and steel, each woman is a survivor.
Both the show’s director and co–creator with Robinson, Richard Carroll has realised a vision which is never overpowering, and always plays to her strengths.
Using nothing more than a centrally – placed microphone, a small side table and an easy chair, props are kept to a clean minimum. Set designer, Lauren Peters, maintains this purity with an ingenious grid of floor lighting, which changes colour and tone for each new song.
An expert, three – piece band is positioned in the shadows to the rear of the stage. Led by musical director and arranger, Martine Wengrow on piano, the trio is completed by Dean Cooper on drums and Scott Griffiths on guitar.
Ethereal mood lighting by Trent Suidgeest is balanced by Nick Reich’s glorious sound. One minute we are in a little supper club, and the next, in the grandest stadium. The Fairfax Studio is the perfect venue for this sort of presentation. Raked seating allows viewers to always be up close, intimate and personal.
Dressed in a modest cocktail dress created by Joselyn Creed, her astute choice never boxes Robinson or viewers into any one particular character. Subtle yet precise details include at one point during the show, having Robinson’s Piaf ditch high heels worn by the other characters, for stocking feet.
Bruce Bolton’s production management, combined with Michele Forbes’ stage management, keep the action fluid and seamless at all times.
If the appreciative opening night standing ovation was any indication, Robinson, co–producer, Harley Medcalf, and her creative team, can be congratulated for putting together an unforgettable winner. Don’t miss it!
For more details and tickets: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/en/whats-on/2018/musicals/the-show-goes-on