It’s convenient to imagine that the glitz and glamour of show business transcends the stage. One might assume that artists are blessed with a glittering and shiny ‘everyday life’ that suitably compliments their lives onstage. Audiences savour the glory of a ‘finished product’; the training, auditions, rejections, auditions, rehearsals, travel and fatigue are rarely considered. Christie Whelan-Browne, in Pure Blonde, examines the rigors and pitfalls of life in showbiz.
In a cabaret show that is essentially extended monologue with brief musical moments to assist with character transition, Whelan-Browne delivers a brutally honest appraisal of the musical theatre industry. Channeling characters at various stages throughout their careers, from a wide-eyed WAAPA graduate through to an ageing chorus member, we witness the less appealing side of showbiz.
Christie performs this challenging show admirably. Pure Blonde begins promisingly, with a WAAPA graduate’s medley of practically-every-musical-theatre-song-ever-written: a clear crowd favourite. From then on there is very limited music. Instead the show is saturated with various over written monologues. Whelan-Browne expertly characterises the testosterone charged leading man and the wily agent however, our appetite for music was whet during the opening number. The audience is left on edge awaiting that next musical number, which takes an age to come.
There’s No Business Like Show Business is a fitting final number. The threads and themes of the show are summarised in song, enhancing the production’s previous observations and critiques of the performance industry. Matthew Frank accompanies the show on piano, occasionally contributing to the action, and Dean Bryant’s direction assists the sketches to flow as smoothly as possible. Despite their efforts, and a strong individual performance by Christie Whelan-Browne, Pure Blonde does not reach the deliver on the promise of hilarious cabaret comedy.
In a show titled Pure Blonde, and marketed as an exploration of the widely under-appreciated blonde songbook, it is challenging to reconcile the premise of the show with its content. The question is posed: Do blondes have more fun? The answer: I’m really not sure.