Arts Centre Melbourne Presents Bernadette Robinson: The Show Goes On

Bernadette Robinson embodies the great songstresses in an astonishing performance teamed with expert storytelling. 

By Narelle Wood

Bernadette Robinson takes the stage again in her one woman show, The Show Goes On. Set around Judy Garland, Robinson introduces an array of amazing songstresses known for their belting voices, and for some their off-stage lives. Included in the repertoire are Streisand, Andrews, Edith Piaf, Shirley Bassey and opera singer Maria Callas.

In true Robinson style, she transitions seamlessly from one songstress to the next and back again. Describing this as a show of impersonations doesn’t really do justice to Robinson’s performance, she embodies these performers from their slightest mannerisms to the smallest inflections in their voices. The song list epitomises the classic hits associated with each of these stars, from Don’t Rain on my parade, Diamonds are forever, La Vie en rose, Over the rainbow and my personal favourite, The trolley song.

Photographs: Bob King

Robinson’s astonishing performance aside and the show itself remains a masterclass in expert storytelling. This is perhaps not surprising given the creative team of Robinson and Richard Carroll. Interjected between, and sometimes during the songs are personal stories from behind the scenes of these extraordinary women. These stories explore everything from the expectation that Judy Garland would never grow up, to Streisand’s early struggles with being a singer, Patsy Cline’s car accident, and even Callaslove affair with Aristotle Onassis.

The transitions between characters are supported by thoughtfully choregraphed movement accross the stage as well as by changes in lighting by designer Trent Suidgeest. While this combination has potential to take you out of the performance, under Carroll’s skilful direction it subtly marks the changes in characters, and only works to enhance rather than distract. It would be remiss not to mention the work of musical director and arranger Martine Wengrow, whose arrangements of Get happy/Happy days are here again and The show goes on/Farther on were standout moments of the show.

The Show Goes On is a combination of most of my favourite songs, exquisitely performed by Robinson. There is nothing not to love about this show, and while I would definitely see The Show Goes On again, I also can’t wait to see what Robinson produces next.

The Show Goes On plays at Arts Centre Melbourne until 11 March.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 182 183.