Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bernadette Robinson: A Show for Somebody.

The past and present inevitably leads to the future and that in turn takes this diarist onto a new show, which is winning hearts and minds in Australia and maybe America soon.

There’s no such thing as certainly, but singer and actress Bernadette Robinson’s remarkable performance in Joanna Murray-Smith’s Songs for Nobodies comes close to being positively Broadway Bound.
The series of monologues, which features five divas and the ordinary women whose lives they touched, is presently having a Brisbane re-run till June 3 (2012).

However, the industry’s chattering class is already marking it down for Broadway following what sounds like one of the most extra ordinary New York City previews in living memory.

Playwright Murray-Smith (Honour) wrote Songs for Nobodies – apparently after some persuasion – to give Robinson’s outstanding gift for vocal and performing mimicry some gravitas.

The result is five superbly crafted intimate monologues sandwiched between Robinson’s uncanny tributes to Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday and Maria Callas.

This show has been blowing away Australian audiences for the past couple of years, and winning accolades from star names such as Geoffrey Rush and Barry Humphries, but now it appears that international acclaim and fame is beckoning.

The story goes that Robinson and Murray-Smith, along with director Simon Phillips and producer Harley Medcalf, jetted to New York to stage a pared-back performance in a relatively bare space.

Robinson presented the 90-minute show with only a piano accompaniment, and minimal costuming, but still managed to secure a standing ovation and more praise than you’d find at St Paul’s Cathedral on a Sunday morning.

The standing ovation is tribute enough, but the names of some of this collection from a who’s who of Broadway notables and Australian expatriates make the anecdote a whiz-bang.

This cheer squad included Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber, director Fred Schepisi,  Aussie comic Judy Morris, Priscilla Queen of the Desert star Tony Sheldon and Broadway producer of The Producers and Hairspray fame Richard Frankel.

Nobodies producer Medcalf, who admittedly has a vested interest in the show, said he had never seen such a spontaneous display like this at the end of  a performance.

Frankel, who is more likely to be instrumental in taking Robinson to Broadway, described the scene as ‘jaw dropping’ and the artist’s talent as ‘truly unique.’

“That has kick-started some serious discussions around town,” he confirmed.

Murray-Smith described the experience as ‘exhilarating’ and the response to   Robinson as ‘ecstatic’.

“Here was proof positive that her talent is not simply local, but global: in the standing ovation that she received from the seen-it-all Broadway folk who came somewhat skeptically to see her and who left utterly astonished at her performance.

In the past week or so I have heard both seasoned professionals and occasional theatre goers and more in-between extol Bernadette Robinson and Songs for Nobodies and read a myriad of reviews like this one from the Melbourne season.

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