11/10/2023 - 22/10/2023
Director - Simon Phillips
Musical Director - Mark Jones
Auckland Theatre Company
Experience the vocal sensation that is Bernadette Robinson, performing 28 hit songs from ten of the biggest DIVAS the world has ever seen!
Bernadette’s critically acclaimed, rare vocal gifts will take you on a musical journey through the repertoire of some of the greatest popular music DIVAS including Edith Piaf, Miley Cyrus, Amy Winehouse, Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, Maria Callas, Kate Bush, Dolly Parton, Karen Carpenter and Judy Garland.
You have to see it to believe it as Bernadette Robinson will inhabit their most famous songs and their musings on life, music and their individual challenges and triumphs.
With reviewers calling her “a jaw-dropping talent” The Times, London and The Australian described her performance as “Beyond virtuosity to the sublime”. This one woman and her band will detonate every single song in an emotion-fuelled concert.
Close your eyes and you’ll experience what it’s like to hear them live.
Artist - Bernadette Robinson
Band - Alistair Deverick (drums), Bray Jefferey (guitar and keyboards) and Mark Jones (piano/keyboard)
Technician - Nicholas Reich
Music , Theatre ,
A feel-good reminiscence for women who have driven themselves through the frailty of their humanity to resurrect themselves.
Review by Michael Hooper 15th Oct 2023
It is Friday 13 October as 13 stars take the ASB Waterfront Theatre stage for Divas. Ten are conjured up by singer/actor Bernadette Robinson; the other three are the clever, beaty boys in the band that is an essential part of the audio illusions materialising as I close my eyes and meet many of my favourite femmes fatales.
From the fragility behind the honeyed voice of Karen Carpenter, to the moving pleas of Vissi D’arte by the eponymous Tosca in the form of Maria Callas; from the bravura bravado of Bassey’s anthem ‘This is My Life’, to the dark red Winehouse heading ‘Back to Black’, the set list of Bernadette Robinson’s many-in-one woman show is a pastiche of pain, poignancy and passion that in the course of 27 songs covers the gamut.
What differentiates this show from being simply a selection of covers, is its exposition of the characters of 10 women whose performances have torched our stages and speakers for over half a century. In the best traditions of mime and cabaret, these women of song materialise free from the fussiness of costumes or set – Robinson wears only black trousers and a simple, black, lacy top sometimes overlaid with a black jacket. Above this sparse staging, punctuated only by seven waiting microphone stands, tiles of the iconic faces of the ten divas are lit as their stories come to life and Robinson drifts, spins and strides from one songstress staging post to another.
The ingeniously programmed first number, Kate Bush singing ‘WOW’, literally sets the stage with the lyrics “alone on the stage tonight” expanding on the monologue “to be able to create something out of nothing” which predicts the traffic of the following one hundred minutes. The syrup in which the sweet islands of song sit has as its ingredients the bitter-sweet experiences of the divas portrayed; from the emergence of chrysalis Karen Carpenter from behind her drum kit, or the mischievous astuteness of Dolly Parton to the risks of Miley Cyrus’ throat surgery and the devastation of Shirley Bassey upon the death of her daughter. Indeed, the latter is so intimately acted that murmurs of sympathy ripple from some of the audience. As Edith Piaf tells us “a song is a story; but the audience has to believe it” and clearly they do.
Bernadette Robinson is lithe and rhythmic, her energy enduring across the spectrum of high emotions that define a diva. She powers up effortlessly for the climaxes yet curls into her characters for their vulnerable moments.
Streisand reminds us that “performing is not about perfection”. While some vocal recreations are more convincing than others, with Amy Winehouse coming to life totally believably, the odd shaky note in We’ve Only Just Begun is almost believable in the fragile context of the Karen Carpenter character.
Setting the scene before the show with a low-key background, the band continues on to create a korowai of sound that covers the few faults – from steel guitar to stadium rock they morph while also providing vocal backing where needed. When the song calls for a warm, jazz club ambiance, they become piano, bass and drum. Burt Bacharach himself would applaud their authentic arrangements. Take a bow Alistair Deverick (drums), Bray Jefferey (guitar and keyboards) and musical director Mark Jones (piano).
The writing and flow of the evening is judicious, creative and beautifully crafted, such as the recitative style to the story of Maria Callas. Robinson knows her mic technique and the show’s technician Nicholas Reich uses EQ expertly to aid and abet the recreations of style on stage.
Fittingly we are farewelled with the uplifting optimism of ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ in the person of Judy Garland, whose speaking voice is as marvelously recreated as her vocals. This is a feel-good, feel-all, fond reminiscence for women who have driven themselves through the frailty of their humanity to resurrect themselves through tenacity and virtuosity. Bravissimi!
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