Rhonda Burchmore: Cry Me a River – Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2011

Presented by the Adelaide Festival Centre and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Reviewed Wednesday 22nd June 2011

Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: 9pm Thurs 23rd June 2011
Duration: 60 mins
Tickets: Premium $55/adult $45/conc $41
Bookings: BASS 131 241 or

Cry Me a River: The World of Julie London (1926-2000) takes us, like Tim Draxl’s tribute to Chet Baker, to the West Coast Cool jazz scene in the 1950s and 60s. She was not only a singer, making more than thirty albums, but also a pin-up and calendar girl, and an actress in over twenty films (1944-1961) and on television (1957-1978).

Rhonda Burchmore has a smoky voice, as did London, and so she is the ideal person to tell this story in song. My guest remarked that hearing Burchmore was like “listening to whiskey” and I immediately thought of those single malt Scotches that come from the west coast and islands of Scotland, much prized by connoisseurs, with that smoky peat and sea air taste and aroma; rich, complex and smooth. It was a good analogy.

A clock ticked loudly, the band began playing Cry Me a River and then Rhonda Burchmore appeared in a stunning dress, split to the waist, that immediately drew a few ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ from the envious ladies in the audience. She even had a smart set to one side of the stage with a large red brocade curtain, tied back, a Regency striped chaise longue and a small decorative table for her water. This show had style, and most of it came from Burchmore. She even had Ray Aldridge at the piano, leading a small group of musicians from the Adelaide Art Orchestra.

The music in the show was a series of standards from the great American Songbook, one great song after another, interspersed with snippets of Julie London’s life story. She opened with the swinging blues number, Lonesome Road, a song that was so popular with singers that there are hundreds of recorded versions since it was written in 1927. One would never have known that she had driven all night through the rain to be in Adelaide in time for her performances.

There were so many wonderful songs in this show: Let There Be Love, Cahn and van Heusen’s Saturday Night (is the Loneliest Night in the Week), Feeling Good, from the 1965 show The Roar of the Greasepaint – the Smell of the Crowd by British writers Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, By Myself, the Gershwin brothers’ ‘S Wonderful, the title song, Cry Me a River, of course, Cole Porter’s You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To, Harry Warren’s The More I See You, Daddy, Black Coffee, Guess Who I Saw Today, a reworked version of Hello Dolly, An Occasional Man, Give Me The Simple Life, the 1960s pop song Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, Irving Berlin’s Say it Isn’t So, The End of the World, Closing the show with Comden and Green’s The Party’s Over.

Burchmore injected humour into her performance and a fair degree of the smouldering sensuousness for which London was renowned, slinking around the stage, sitting on the piano, sitting and laying on the chaise longue, sitting on the edge of the stage and coming down to interact with audience members. The audience were with her from start to finish, and reluctant to leave. She then signed autographs and posed for photographs with her fans in the foyer. She is not just a great performer but also a very genuine person. Try to catch her last show.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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