The superlative adjectives used to describe Bernadette Robinson, her voice, her shows and her ability to engage and entertain an audience have been flying around for years now – and she deserves every one of them.
Robinson and her husband, pianist Paul Noonan, walked on stage together at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and for the next hour and 10 minutes, Robinson gave a glamorously relaxed performance equal to the talents and professionalism of the world-class Divas she impersonates.
What shines through is her personality; humble, amusing and talented Robinson mocks the harridans, honours the greats and brings to life those towering talents long since passed.
Beginning with Judy Garland’s version of ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ Robinson not only performs the songs but often puts them in context along with anecdotal stories of and from the original artists.
‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ from My Fair Lady stopped abruptly a few lines in and Robinson began a comic skit. Performing the song in the voice and style of Barbra Streisand, Maria Callas, Dolly Parton and Shirley Bassey which drew some big belly laughs from the crowd. Another comic highlight included singing ‘I Love The Nightlife’ in Julie Andrews mode as “The Queen Of Disco’.
Renditions of songs made famous by Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday and Edith Piaf moved away from humour and were given the full Robinson treatment, stunning the audience into silence while lifting the room to palpably divine heights of aural and emotional pleasure.
It was clear from very early on that the lighting design confined Robinson’s movements on the playhouse stage against her will. After the show some audience members complained they would have preferred to hear Robinson backed by an orchestral band rather than a single piano, suggesting the sound was “too bald” for some of the numbers.
When Robinson relates Edith Piaf saying, “Singing without love is no good, as is love without singing. You have to have both.” One can’t help but think Robinson does enjoy the two concurrently.