THEATRE

Reviewed by Frank Barnes

After my last week of theatre-going and four weeks of travelling around in the Gonski van I was having a rest from seeing any shows. But the day after my travels finished I was back into it with the Annual Seniors Week Premiers Concert at the “Now Called Something Else Very Commercial” but still known to me as “The Why Are They Going to Pull Down a Very Successful Entertainment Venue and Replace it with a Much Smaller One”, previously known as the Sydney Entertainment Centre or Ent Cent.

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

The Premier's Seniors Week Gala Concert
Produced by Paul Venables and Sarah Jane Ploughman
Executive Producers: The Department of Community Services

I have written previously about these wonderful concerts and explained how I was involved in the first years of the concerts where I wrote the scripts now written far more ably by Linda Nagle. These are great big concert/cabarets presented during the day so our senior citizens get the opportunity to come together and see some of our best talent in well-produced concerts. This year’s concerts (and there were six this year) called You Make Me Feel Like Dancing were a tribute to the music of the seventies, with the de’leg’table Rhonda Burchmore as hostess and performer. What a great choice Ms Burchmore was, as she talked about her childhood memories in Sydney’s inner west. Linda Nagle’s script was obviously developed after much discussion with Ms Burchmore.

The concert started with a Welcome to Cadagal Land by Millie Ingram who is now the CEO of the Wyanga Aboriginal Aged Care Program in Redfern. Millie is always warm and inviting in her role and sends a great message to the audiences that have become much better at accepting this welcome as a natural ritual. After a welcome from a pollie and the National Anthem (for which I remain seated as I am against nationalistic excesses) it was into the concert with the first sighting of the sequins that would be present throughout the show. Sequins are a big part of show business and these performers all wore them well. Rhonda is very tall and almost always shows a very shapely leg. She has been in the business for decades and is a genuine legend.

The concert features Ben Mingay who shows the most amazing range with performances of Neil Diamond’s “Crunchy Granola Suite” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” in the first act and Lennon’s “Imagine” and Barry White’s “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything”. The “still only 18” Anja Nissen who has come through the Schools Spectaculars and the Talent Development Project shows the worth of those when after a shaky National Anthem and Carole King’s “I Feel The Earth Move” showed her real talent in Minnie Ripperton’s “Lovin’ You” and James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain”. She was spectacular in both of these numbers. Tom Sharah has enormous stage presence and showed it in his Jackson Five “I Want You Back” and the Act 1 finale which had the seniors dancing in their seats — a Village People medley. He knocked us over again in Act 2 with Meat Loaf’s “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” and a duet with Ms Burchmore on “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee. Mr Sharah is currently playing in the musical The Drowsy Chaperone which I will be seeing this weekend.

The special guest was the “new Australian”, Leo Sayer. He is a brilliant performer. When you work with these performers and sit in on rehearsals you see them walk through for sound and lights and staging usually performing at about 60 per cent. Then they explode to performance level. I had known nothing about Sayer’s stage presence. Wow! In the first act he sings “More Than I Can Say” and then opened the second act with “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing”. Those who could (not me) had their arms swaying with him in this and during his third song “When I Need You”.

But Rhonda Burchmore was the hostess and the star. She showed her incredible range (of both singing and sequined frocks) in the first half with her interpretations of Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” and Barbra Streisand’s “Evergreen” and finished the show with Abba’s “Mamma Mia”.

Each performance had images of the original performers on the six giant screens at the back of the stage. The performers are backed by musicians led by director Russell Finch, great dancers ED5International and the best backing singers I have heard in ages, from the Australian Institute of Music led by Martine Moore. Everything was “signed” in Auslan by Nicole Clark.

These are some of the best concerts you will be lucky enough to see ever, with some of our very best performers. So all of my dear young readers who have not got there yet have something to look forward to as I don’t think any government would be likely to stop them.

Frank Barnes is a proud senior and was part of the Gonski Antique Roadshow. He is looking forward to Noises Off at the Sydney Theatre Company this weekend and The Government Inspector at Belvoir the next.