Interview: Rhonda Burchmore – Being Glamorous In Glamazonia

Ben Stefanoff talks to Rhonda Burchmore about her upcoming show “Glamazonia”

For 40 years, the fabulous Rhonda Burchmore has entertained us. Rhonda has forged a name for herself worldwide in the entertainment industry, and has performed with an expansive, and impressive, list of people.

Last October, Rhonda was meant to headline the opening weekend of the refurbished Regal Theatre, but due to COVID-19 lockdowns in Victoria, Rhonda was unable to make it over to perform. However, this coming Friday March 5 and Saturday March 6, Rhonda will finally be appearing here in Adelaide, premiering her new show, Glamazonia.

I spoke with Rhonda to discuss her upcoming visit.

“I’m so passionate about coming over to Adelaide, finally! The show I’m bringing over is called Glamazonia, so it’s just fitting I’m talking to you at Glam Adelaide!

“The previous show I was meant to do last year was going to be a ‘Rhonda’s greatest hits’ kind of show, but this new show has had a script written and new arrangements of songs, just for me. It’s more about survival – my 40 years in the entertainment industry with all the ups and downs and everything in between. It’s coming together amazingly well, so I’m excited to premiere it in Adelaide. I’m bringing over a band, and costumes have been designed for it – it’s just a year later than it should have been.”

Last time I spoke to Rhonda, she was gearing up to record a Christmas Big Band album. However, once again, due to the Victorian lock downs, it was put on hold. She was able to release a stunning rendition of the classic song ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ with her musical director, and pianist, Jack Earle. When I recently spoke to Rhonda, she was excitedly in the middle of rehearsing with Jack’s Big Band and about to start recording the album, due to be released later this year.

“I’m currently recording the big band Christmas album I was meant to do last year. When there kept on being lockdowns and things were prolonged, it was just horrific. When you work towards something, in what was a shitty year, to have it cancelled was devastating. So, Jack and I thought that we should put one little song out. There was a tiny little window where we could have one person in each other’s bubble, so that’s how and when we recorded ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’. The exciting thing is we are currently in a recording studio with 23 musicians recording the album. It’s a really big couple of weeks. The big band album sounds unbelievably fabulous. It’s goose-bumpy to have all those musicians, live, in that one space. In hindsight, I’m happy we did delay it until this year and we can all be in the one space, vibing off each other.”

Even with a reduced performance schedule, there were still multiple opportunities for Rhonda to perform. One of my personal favourite appearances by Rhonda was that on John Forman’s New Year’s Eve Spectacular, where she performed alongside numerous other entertainment industry icons. I was curious to hear how Rhonda found performing to an empty theatre, while knowing the show was being streamed around the country to viewers.

“It was very strange. You normally get such a buzz and an energy from a live audience, so just to see empty chairs there, it felt almost like a rehearsal. You have to remind yourself it is actually a performance for all these people around the country. It was the weirdest feeling, and I did quite a few of those virtual concerts. But there is nothing like having real people in the audience. Whether they love it or hate it, they laugh or they cry – you get none of that through a streamed concert. This performance I’m doing in Adelaide, it’s what I love. Until you don’t have the ‘live’ factor in a performance, you don’t realise how much you take it for granted. You don’t know how much you miss it until you get back there. It’s not like the real, live thing.”

Finally, we get to see Rhonda do what she loves – perform on a stage, to a live audience, with live musicians. Her new show Glamazonia  has been purposefully written for Rhonda as a reflection on her expansive career in the entertainment industry. 

“The show has been written by a wonderful friend of mine, Linda Nagle. I gave her an idea of where I wanted to go with this show. I just didn’t want it to be a tribute show, you know ‘Rhonda’s favourite songs from her favourite musicals’. It’s nothing like that; it has a much stronger message about survival in the industry, girl power – all of those wonderful things. I do touch on some things from my childhood through to the West End, Broadway and my time on ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’. There’s some very funny stories and anecdotes that go with them, as well as absolute highlights as well as the lowlights. 

“My Musical Director, Jack Earle, has arranged all the charts for the show with a fresh new feel, including a sensational version of ‘I Am Woman’ that really adds to the feel of the show. We also have a lot of contemporary songs, including ‘Skyfall’, and we also go back to the The Pointer Sisters when we talk about my time on The Don Lane show. To partner with that, we also have some beautiful ballads. There’s a lot of glamour in this show, a lot of fabulous music and some historical moments too. I hate the word journey, but it is like a wonderfully wooly journey of Rhonda’s career over the last 40 years.”

It wouldn’t be a Rhonda performance without sequins and stunning outfits.

“I’ve had outfits designed by Issac Lummis, who is a fantastic costume designer friend of mine. He was making this last year for me and it all got put on hold due to lockdowns. Recently he’s been working on costumes for RuPaul’s Drag Race show so I contacted him and told him he needs to drop that and get out his sewing machine and get cracking on my Glamazonia outfits. I’m having quite a creation made for this show.

“I have the hot boy band [referring to her band of musicians] – they will all be in their camouflage. With budget cuts, we might have to make them go commando, but we’ll just have to see on the night.”

Rhonda will premiere her new show Glamazonia Friday 5 March at 8pm, and Saturday 6 March at 2.30pm at the beautifully refurbished Regal Theatre in Kensington Park. Tickets are limited, and can be purchased directly at https://www.trybooking.com/BNEGI

Interview by Ben Stefanoff

Twitter: @theartsislife

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