Bert LaBonte: When I Fall in Love – Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2011

Presented by the Adelaide Festival Centre and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Reviewed Thursday 23rd June 2011

Venue: Artspace, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: 7pm Fri 24th and 6:15pm Sat 25th June 2011
Duration: 60 mins
Tickets: adult $29/conc $25
Bookings: BASS 131 241 or

With a piano one side of the stage, Alana Dawes on bass just behind it, and an arm chair and standard lamp on the other side, hinting at his television broadcasts from his home, we are taken back to remember the great talent that was Nat ‘King’ Cole, as Bert LaBonte presents his production of When I Fall in Love: The Nat King Cole Story.

Conceived by LaBonte and written by Ross Meuller we learn about the three packets of cigarettes a day that Cole smoked that gave him that voice, his marriage and philandering, his fight against racial prejudice and more but, most importantly we heard much of his music superbly recreated. From a whispered introduction the performance opens with the haunting song, Nature Boy., interspersed with facts of Cole’s birth, followed by a little of Cole’s own voice singing It’s a Good Day.

LaBonte’s voice suits the songs and style of Cole beautifully, and his delivery of the poetic narrative is wonderfully engaging. This is a masterly performance by a hugely talented performer.

We hear more than Cole’s life story as LaBonte puts it all into a socio-economic The words of Route 66 continually float through that poetry, yet the song itself is not heard until the encore, releasing that suspense built up by the regular references. LaBonte steers away from that song, that we fully expected to hear, and sings Straighten Up and Fly Right instead.

Mona Lisa, Sweet Lorraine, the song he was talked into singing by a drunk and that started him on his career as a vocalist, Unforgettable, probably his biggest hit, Love is a Many Splendoured Thing, Autumn Leaves, sung in French, Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer, L-O-V-E, Fascination, Stardust, and When I Fall in Love were all there, so many of the great songs, juxtaposed against an often difficult and sadly short life, Cole passing of lung cancer just before his 46th birthday.

LaBonte finally closed this terrific show with the long awaited Route 66. he left the audience wanting more, both of the marvellous music of Nat ‘King’ Cole and of the smooth vocals of Bert LaBonte. Hurry to catch his other shows.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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