Carrie Rawlings: When I Was Young, I Listened to the Radio – Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2011

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

Venue: Festival Theatre stage, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: Season ended
Duration: 60 mins

Carrie Rawlings was in Adelaide last year for a brief appearance as one of the singers in a show featuring Stephen Schwartz and his music. Having been impressed by her voice at that time I took advantage of the opportunity to hear her again in her own show this year. Her voice was better than I had remembered, clear, well articulated and with perfect diction. This time we also had a chance to hear her fine piano playing as she accompanied herself, assisted by drums and guitar/synthesizer.

After a short mock interview, in which we learn some basic facts about her, Rawlings opened her performance with a Carpenters medley of Burt Bacharach’s songs that immediately got toes tapping. The rest of the performance was a sequence of familiar songs between each of which we were invited into her personal life. We first heard recordings of her parents, in which we discovered that they were “like chalk and cheese”. This led into Michael Jackson’s One Day in Your Life. Then we hear of her sister and their relationship. We also discover that Rawlings listened to the radio whenever she could and we are told of a rather disastrous attempt by her father to organise a holiday, with Stevie Wonder’s You Are the Sunshine of My Life weaved in with the tale.

Rawlings decided early that she wanted a career in show business, inspired by the music she heard on the radio. This proved a neat introduction to Lily Allen’s I Don’t Know, followed quickly by Marvin Gaye’s You’re All I Need to Get By. Her determination to succeed, though, had distractions, especially boys, and we hear of some of her errors in judgement. She dealt superbly with overly chatty members of the audience who shouted out comments. Then we had a medley relating to the boys in her past.

She then introduces us to her grandmother, the matriarch of the whole family. We also discover that they were all ready to tell her what that thought about each of her boyfriends, at the end of a relationship. Amy Winehouse’s Love is a Losing Game fitted appropriately at this point. How do you cheer up at the end of a relationship if you are too young to go to a pub? Yes, a house party, and hope to meet another boy, a cue for Madonna’s Crazy For You.

Unhappy with her mother’s advice to find a rich footballer to marry, she left home to go to university for three years. When she returned things had changes and she sang a heartfelt version of Adele’s Someone Like You. To change her sombre mood she then turned to the Tapestry album to sing Carol King’s I Feel the Earth Move. After telling of some of her likes and dislikes she sang India Arie’s Video, swapping Carrie for India Arie where they occur in the lyrics.

Her grandmother, the rock on which the entire family was built, passed away just as Rawling’s life seemed to be going well, devastating her. Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All was her response to this great loss. She closed the show with another Carpenter’s song that had great meaning for her, Yesterday Once More, that begins with this production’s title, “When I was young I’d listen to the radio”.

An unexpected encore was necessary so, with her drummer and guitarist leaving the stage, she sang a song written especially for Karen Carpenter by the great Henry Mancini, Sometimes.

Carrie Rawlings has a great talent for telling a story and matching it to her favourite songs, as well as being a fine pianist and a terrific singer. She took a big personal risk in sharing intimate details of her life and family and told she her stories in an affectionate way that endeared her to the audience. Here is somebody to watch as I expect her to go a long way very soon.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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