Entertainment Hive 2018

Pennsylvannia Avenue starring Bernadette Robinson

Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Her Majesty's Theatre, Friday, June 12

Review by Honey B

Bernadette Robinson is at her all time best in Pennsylvannia Avenue. It has been five years since Robinson last graced the Her Majesty Theatre's stage in the riveting Songs For Nobodies and this performance is just as stellar as the last. Playwright Joanna Murray-Smith wrote this one-woman show for Bernadette Robinson and the play was layered with the stories of the various presidents from Kennedy to Clinton as well as Robinson's character Harper Clemence's own heart-wrenching tale. Clemence, from Georgia, had worked her way up from lowly assistant to White House Social Secretary over a career spanning 40 years. She was in charge of entertainment for the First Ladies and Presidents of the USA - but all these years later she's leaving her cherished job and reminiscing in the iconic Blue Room, surrounded by portraits of the Presidents. Songs of the performers who had sung at the White House are interspersed throughout the narration, but Robinson truly shines when she can sing a piece in full. Her meeting with Marilyn Munroe and version of Happy Birthday was fun as was her personal tale about Barbara Streisand. Robinson's portrayal of Eartha Kitt was mesmerising as was her rendition of If You Go Away. There was a moving version of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and a powerful version of Aretha Franklin's Respect. The changing portraits were a nice touch as was the live band behind the blue curtains, which audience members could occasionally glimpse depending on the lighting. This was another tour-de-force by the triple threat team of Robinson, Murray-Smith and director Simon Phillips.
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