Performing Arts

Caroline O’Connor: A Musical Life – Cabaret Festival

Caroline O'Connor Cabaret FestivalPresented by the Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Reviewed Fri 25th June 2010

Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: Finished
Duration: 1hr

Caroline O’Connor has become synonymous with the show, Chicago. She has played both main roles, Roxy Hart and Velma Kelly, here and abroad, appearing in numerous productions. Her first lead role, however, was as Mabel in Mack and Mabel, the musical about silent movie star Mack Sennett and his tumultuous relationship with Mabel Normand. She also has the distinction of appearing at the very first Adelaide Cabaret Festival, as well as now appearing at the tenth.

Born in Oldham, of Irish parents, she migrated to Elizabeth Park with her family as a child, so Adelaide audiences are always pleased to have a visit from the local girl who made good. Nowadays she travels all over the world performing and is off soon the London’s Albert Hall to perform for Stephen Sondheim at his 80th birthday celebration.

A lively overture drowned by massive applause at her entrance merged into I Move On. Keeping up tempo she then song that 1960s Sonny and Cher hit, The Beat Goes On. She continues to tell anecdotes of her travels and performing experiences under the music, creating plenty of laughs before ending with a mix of the original song blending it with snippets of All That Jazz and Roxy. She continued to tell of her career, in which we discover the long hard times she went through of understudying and getting bit parts before getting her break in Mack and Mabel, at the age of 33, leading to Mack’s opening number from that show, Movies Were Movies, and her own songs What Happened to Mabel and Time Heals Everything.

A change of pace and some solid walking bass led to a terrific version of Cool from West Side Story, in which she had played the role of Anita. Referring to her Irish heritage, she then sang a beautiful version of the air, Isle of Innisfree. Although it has a traditional feel to it, it not as old as might be thought, being written in 1950 by Richard Farrelly for the John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara film, The Quiet Man, slipping into a song from The Hatpin, a show by Australians Peter Rutherford and James Millar. Then the comic song by Sheldon Harnich, written for The Shoestring Review, Somebody’s Sending Me Flowers and a complete change for a stunning rendition of the Nat ‘King’ Cole favourite, Nature Boy, coupled with Roxanne, written by Sting for The Police and including a marvellous piano solo introduction the whole band having a chance to shine.

Stephen Sondheim next and a showstopper of a version of Nothing’s Gonna Harm You from Sweeney Todd led the way into another medley. Swinging versions of Cole Porter’s It’s De-lovely and Anything Goes, both from his show of that name, made the audience tap toes like mad. Then, the mention of Judy Garland had every body on the edge of their seats in anticipation. The fine torch song that Garland often sang, The Man That Got Away, brought forth huge applause. More laughs came with I Hate Musicals, from Ruthless! The Musical!!

Groans came next, as she announced that she show was almost over, but the moment passed as she spoke of appearing in a production of Piaf and ripped into a superb versions of Milord, Le Vie en Rose and Non, je ne Regrette Rien. A brief reprise of I Move On looked like an attempt to end the show, but the calls for an encore left no doubt that she had to sing more songs before she could leave. She spoke of singing for Sondheim’s birthday and this was the cue for one of his best numbers, from Follies, the musical theatre performers’ anthem Broadway Baby. The applause was overwhelming.

Performers always prepare an encore or two, in case they are needed. Caroline O’Connor, however, considerably underestimated her immense popularity with Adelaide audiences and ran out of prepared items. A quick consultation with her pianist, a rummage through a song book and we were treated to one more number before we reluctantly let her close her show. Somewhere Over the Rainbow blended with snatches of Waltzing Mathilda worked surprisingly well and had the audience singing along with her. Even more thunderous applause and a standing ovation followed. Let’s hope that we see her back very soon with Piaf. Fabulous!

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor Glam Adelaide.

More News

To Top