Songs For Nobodies
Performed by Bernadette Robinson
Director Simon Phillips
Writer Joanna Murray-Smith
Sydney Opera House until February 9
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
When I first reviewed Bernadette Robinson in the 1980s, I wrote, “If Bernadette Robinson had Kylie’s marketing and PR team, there would be a more equitable global distribution of appreciation of talent”.
Having first seen Songs For Nobodies a few years ago, the opportunity to catch it again was irresistible. Why? In that first show more than thirty years ago, the classically-trained Robinson’s bewildering musical talent at vocal mimicry had me in front of Julie Andrews, Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, Dame Nellie Melba, the five in the current show, Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and Maria Callas, and others.
Each of the five have brief connections with the “nobodies” who serve as narrators. These coincidences are the highlights of their ordinary lives.
A restroom attendant has a chance meeting with Judy Garland and the momentary, memorable relationship is established. Cue Judy Garland’s first song.
A theatre usher is invited to privately sing in front of Patsy Cline and ends up performing once as one of the country legend’s backing singers. Robinson’s rendition of Crazy is absolutely riveting.
A young fashion writer has been trying to interview Billie Holiday and finally swings it in a life-changing meeting. Holiday opens up in song for her, and again, the vocally perfect Robinson projects the angst that’s intrinsic to Billie Holiday’s voice in Strange Fruit.
An English librarian’s father is saved from the Nazis by Edith Piaf and the link introduces Robinson’s spine-tingling version of Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien. I could have watched and listened to her perform Piaf all night.
An Irish nanny is working on one of Aristotle Onassis’ yachts and provides the segué to Maria Callas’ powerhouse, operatic vocals.
Robinson’s only costume changes are a black jacket on and off a black dress, so the characterisations of the ten different people are done with attitude, facial gestures, physicality and voice.
Look, I won’t pretend that this is an impartial review. Bernadette Robinson is a true star and it seems that she’s finally starting to receive the global recognition that she has deserved for years.
The ticket price point seems extremely low when you consider the talent on show. Given that Robinson should be playing in much larger venues, you’d be well-served to catch her before the rest of the world finds out about her extraordinary abilities. Songs For Nobodies closes on February 9. Expect to have goosebumps.