He won an AFI at the ripe old age of 13 (for Devil’s Playground), which seems to be the where it all began… The toothy little kid on the screen presented to the audience on the Festival Theatre Stage seemed so different to the Simon Burke we know and love, yet his determination and pure professionalism shines through even back then.
Simon Burke is back performing in Australia for the first time since 2007 and he seemed eager to tell the audience all about the exciting life he has led, and the audience were equally enthralled.
The first Australian Marius in Les Miserables, a regular at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, one of the most-loved presenters on ABC TV’s Play School and an actor with a suite of productions both in Australia and on the West End under his belt… you start to wonder if there is anything Burke doesn’t do.
Well, apparently he doesn’t dance – but he does name drop a list of stars he’s worked with to avoid dancing and although teetering on the self-indulgent, the theatre geeks in the audience (this reviewer included) got a real thrill recognising an amazing list of talented people Burke calls his colleagues (… Joel Grey anyone?).
A special tribute to his time with Play School was a sweet wink at the genre, acknowledging that many ticket buyers would only be aware of his TV work, with a few guest appearances from Jemima, Humpty and Big Ted to make us even more star struck.
It is Burke’s natural talent on stage that really engages. He has a beautiful voice and a presence that reiterates why he is a West End leading man. His simple, yet beautiful performance of ‘Edelweiss’ from The Sound of Music was a near tear-jerker and the anthemic tribute to Lena Horne was a surprising highlight. A monologue from Three Furies (the life of Francis Bacon) was a little out of place in a cabaret setting but allowed Burke to demonstrate the range of his experience.
It has not gone un-noticed in this Festival that there are a crowd of hugely talented musicians supporting the acts, whether its a big star or an emerging performer. Burke’s band is no exception, including musical director Daniel Edmonds on piano, Lucas Edmonds on drums/accordion, Barrie Shaw on reeds and Brendan Clarke on double-bass.
Simon Burke is so very welcome back to the stage in Australia and you can’t help but feel pride for an Australian performer who has done so well, combined with the nostalgia of our history – particularly when he takes the show out on a Play School double-platinum hit, ‘Nice to Have a Cuddle’… we all love that!
17 – 19 Junewww.adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au