Fringe Review: Bessie, Billie and Dinah

Bessie Smith, Billie Holliday and Dinah Washington are icons of jazz . All suffered the double prejudice of being female and black, during the days of segregation. And each had an influence on the next.

By

Presented by Bonnie Lee Galea
Reviewed 4th March 2017

Bessie Smith, Billie Holliday and Dinah Washington are icons of jazz . All suffered the double prejudice of being female and black, during the days of segregation. And each had an influence on the next. So pulling them together makes sense for a cabaret show.

Performing these artists’ work is Bonnie Lee Galea, joined by Quinton Dunne on double bass and Richard Coates on piano. Each of the eponymous singers is given half a dozen songs, with chat about their life, delivered by Galea and Dunne, in between: standard cabaret structure.

Bessie numbers included Devil’s Gonna Get You, Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down and Out) and the darkly funny Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair, which Galea got the audience singing along to. Moving onto Billie Holliday, we were treated to God Bless the Child, Gloomy Sunday and Loverman, amongst others, although I was disappointed that Galea didn’t tackle Strange Fruit. Finally, Dinah Washington was presented with numbers such as Ain’t Misbehavin’, Teach Me Tonight and Makin’ Whoopee, finishing with her big hit What a Difference a Day Makes.

Galea is a fine singer with beautiful tone and pitch. However, she tends to sing right on the beat, and doesn’t seem to have the confidence to loosen up and sing behind or in front of it. This makes for some pleasant, but dull listening at times. Dunne and Coates are both talented musicians, but the set would have improved had Coates not been sitting at an upright, with his back to the rest of the trio. Surely an electric keyboard would solve this problem?

Overall, this is a show which comes across as under-rehearsed, both musically and in terms of stage presence: song endings were often sloppy, Dunne and Galea stumbled over “lines” and the banter was awkward and often too long.

There is no questioning the basic talent that we saw on stage: some more work, some tidying and trimming and some vocal loosening, and this will be a fantastic cabaret show.

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

Rating out of 5:  3

Venue:  The Jade, The Singing Gallery, The British (Port Adelaide)
Season:  4th March
Duration:  100 minutes
Tickets:  $25.00-$28.00
Bookings:  https://www.adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/bessie-billie-dinah

https://www.adelaidefringe.com.au

https://bonnieleegalea.com/

 

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