Broadway season of Songs For Nobodies edges closer to reality

Songs For Nobodies
Bernadette Robinson in Songs For Nobodies

It is a rare and beautiful thing when a show brings you to your feet to applaud at the final curtain. But it is a moment of pure ecstasy when a show becomes a life moment – a night you’ll never forget, a transcendent experience, a joyous moment of revelation. The metaphors are endless! The opportunities to exploit them are not.

Songs for Nobodies is unquestionably one such opportunity.

If you have had the divine good fortune to see this show during its extended Australian tour, you’ll understand. It is a rare theatrical gem. It actually can’t help but make you feel proud that it’s an Australian creation – and that talent such as Joanna Murray-Smith (the author), Simon Phillips (the director) and Bernadette Robinson (the star) is Australian too.

What’s most exciting about this all-Australian work is the recent news that it’s one step closer to confirming a Broadway run, following a successful series of showcases for potential backers in New York recently.

Bernadette Robinson, star of the one woman show flew to New York with playwright Joanna Murray-Smith, Director Simon Phillips and Producer Harley Medcalf to present three pared-back showcases, and it is understood that the final showcase received a thunderous standing ovation.

With just a piano and minimal costuming and props in a relatively bare space, Robinson performed the show for entertainment legends such as Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber, homegrown Hollywood director Fred Schepisi, Judy Morris, Australia’s current Broadway star, Priscilla’s Tony Sheldon, esteemed Broadway Producer, Richard Frankel and a ‘who’s who’ of the Broadway community.

“I go to readings and showcases of new Broadway plays and musicals, to see them in the early stages of development, so I can follow their progress. I had never, ever, at these events, until Bernadette’s showcase, seen a full, spontaneous, standing ovation at the conclusion of the presentation”, said Songs For Nobodies Producer Hayley Medcalf, whose astonishing list of credits span over 20 years in Australia and already  on Broadway.

Medcalf is now focused on pulling together all the elements that will secure a Broadway run, including confirming investors, a theatre and all of the other complexities that are required in order to open any show on “The Great White Way”.

[pull_left]Bernadette delivered a jaw dropping performance, quite wonderful! She has a truly unique stage talent, that has kick-started some serious discussions around town[/pull_left]

Broadway Producer, Richard Frankel, whose credits include A Little Night Music, Gypsy, Hairspray, Sweeney Todd, Company, The Producers and Angels in America, confirmed the buzz that now surrounds The Big Apple as a result of Robinson’s performance saying, “Bernadette delivered a jaw dropping performance, quite wonderful! She has a truly unique stage talent, that has kick-started some serious discussions around town.”

And rightly so!

This has been the little-show-that-could from day one. Written specifically to showcase the vocal talents of Bernadette Robinson and first produced at Melbourne Theatre Company, it built word of mouth reviews rarely seen in Australia and burst into Sydney with houses brimming before embarking on a national tour to unanimous raves and an encore season of sold out houses.

[pull_right]Here was proof positive that her talent is not simply local, but global[/pull_right]

If the name Bernadette Robinson was unknown to you before this show, please by all means take the moment I took about five minutes into seeing it and wonder why. Vocally, she is a powerhouse of incredible skill, passion, range and diversity. Her capacity to deliver night after night in Songs for Nobodies marks her as a major international talent. How she has not dominated the Australian cabaret scene, the Australian music theatre, and Australian television is a bit beyond my ken.

I left the Opera House Playhouse gushing and proclaiming to anyone who would listen that if this were America the play would already have won a bushel of Tony’s and be in pre-production for a movie. Writer Joanna Murray-Smith echos my thoughts, also.

It was hugely exhilarating to take Songs [For Nobodies] to New York this month to test the waters, because the response to Bernadette was so ecstatic”, she said.

“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 sceptically to see her and who left utterly astonished at her performance”.

Songs For Nobodies
Bernadette Robinson in Songs For Nobodies

The show markets itself as the stories of five nobodies whose lives are touched by five somebodies – Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holliday and Maria Callas. It sounds impossible and it really should be. It’s a show that should not work in concept let alone on stage. And yet, with a brilliantly intelligent, human and heartfelt script, spectacularly subtle and well-guided direction and the inimitable acting and vocal talents of Robinson – it doesn’t just work, it astounds! You will seldom have so incredible night in a theatre as this show affords.

Why shouldn’t Broadway have the privilege? Why shouldn’t Hollywood for that matter?

If Medcalf and her production team have anything to do with it, perhaps it will soon be the case. It is understood that Medcalf will continue meetings and conversations with investors with the goal of making an official announcement in the near future.

Robinson, however, is taking a well-earned break before playing an encore season in Brisbane in May followed by a premiere season in Perth.

And the Oscar for Best Actress goes to whom? You know my pick.

In the meantime, if you have a million or so lying around, please give this show a hand!

Where’s my Amex?

Brisbane Encore Season

QPAC’s Cremorne Theatre

May 16 – May 27
Tickets on sale from QPAC
Bookings: 136 246

Adelaide Season

Adelaide Cabaret Festival – Her Majesty’s Theatre

June 7 – 10
Tickets on sale through BASS
Bookings:131 246

Perth Premiere Season

State Theatre Centre of Western Australia

June 22 – July 1
Tickets on sale through BOCS
Bookings: 08 9484 1133

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David has written 179 articles on AussieTheatre | Read more articles by