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DIVAS - Sydney Opera House (NSW)

Performed by Bernadette Robinson. Directed by Simon Phillips.


Reviewed by Mary-Anne Reid

Sydney Opera House, Sydney

3rd - 20th August 2023


4 STARS


- A night of songs from 10 Divas, with the 11th encapsulating them all -


Bernadette Robinson brings to the stage of the Playhouse Theatre at Sydney Opera House a selection of the signature tunes of ten iconic female singers, from Maria Callas to Amy Winehouse, in a production she co-created with director Simon Phillips.


Best described as a musical chameleon in this show, Robinson channels the songs and life stories of the ten divas in an extraordinary reproduction of both their singing styles and voices, cleverly avoiding, for the most part, straying into caricature. The show begins with the opening notes of Kate Bush’s "Wuthering Heights" and bows out with Judy Garland and "No Business Like Show Business".


Robinson’s career highlights include the one-woman musical plays Songs for Nobodies, Pennsylvania Avenue and Patsy Cline: Her Songs Her Story, as well as roles in musicals including Pirates of Penzance and Cats. Phillips is a former Artistic Director of the Melbourne Theatre Company with credits including the musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and operas The Turk in Italy, Falstaff, La Bohème and Lulu for Opera Australia.


An Andy Warhol-style collage of the ten divas sits above the performers and lights saturate the stage with a single colour, which changes as each new singer is presented. There are no costume or set changes – everything relies on the talents of the 11th diva and her three incredibly skillfull backing musicians, Mark Jones (keyboards), Jonathan Skovron (guitar/bass/keyboards) and Graham Hunt (drums).


Although she is certainly accomplished enough to cover all 10 divas, Robinson is at her best when conjuring the big showtune singers like Shirley Bassey (This Is My Life) and Streisand (Memories), and also Piaf (Non, je ne regrette rien), and less convincing with the velvety Karen Carpenter (Close to You) and the R&B of Amy Winehouse (Back to Black, Rehab).


A highlight of the show is the segment on Maria Callas, where the audience gets a glimpse of the outer limits of Robinson's extraordinary vocal toolbox. A linked segment on Dolly Parton (I Will Always Love You) and her goddaughter Mylie Cyrus (Wrecking Ball) provides humour – important given that a good number of these divas met with a tragic fate – and a gear change into more contemporary music.


In the end, though, it may be too much to run through ten divas in a single evening, as there is something predictable in the progress of the show from start to finish. We know the songs by heart and the stories, while engaging, are snippets that leave too little time to make a deep connection with any one diva or discover something new about their work.


The achievement of the show is definitely the virtuosity of Bernadette Robinson and the musicians. There is also the pleasure of hearing these iconic songs live and loud. These two factors brought most of the the audience to its feet to give diva Bernadette Robinson a long-standing ovation at the close of her latest show.

 

Ticket Price

Standard

All tickets

Premium $119

A Reserve $99

B Reserve $79


Concession

Australian Seniors Means Tested Australian Pensions* Full-Time Students

Premium n/a

A Reserve $89

B Reserve n/a


Group 8+

Bookings of 8 tickets or more

Premium n/a

A Reserve $89

B Reserve n/a


PROGRAMME

Kate Bush Wow Wuthering Heights Running Up That Hill

Shirley Bassey Diamonds are Forever This is my Life

Karen Carpenter We've Only Just Begun Rainy Days and Mondays

Edith Piaf Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien La Vie En Rose La Belle Histoire D'amour

Dolly Parton Jolene Dumb Blonde I Will Always Love You

Miley Cyrus Wrecking Ball We Can't Stop X Where Is My Mind Flowers

Barbra Streisand The Way We Were I'm The Greatest Star Being Alive

Maria Callas Cadenza Una Voce Poco Fa Vissi D'arte

Amy Winehouse Back to Black Rehab You Know I'm No Good

Judy Garland Over The Rainbow The Man That Got Away There's No Business, Like Show Business

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