[MUSIC/Cabaret ~ SA]
Courtyard at Treasury 1860, Sat 29 Feb.
The Courtyard at Treasury 1860 is a wonderful intimate setting and the weather is kind. The perfect place for a bit of Saturday evening Fringe! Bonnie Lee Galea with superb backing from Quinton Dunne on double bass, Richard Coates on keys and Josh Chenoweth on trumpet play the songs and tell the stories of three female American blues singers from the early 20th Century who deserve to be remembered.
Bonnie and Quinton take turns in telling snippets from the lives of, in turn, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington. With the slightest costume changes Bonnie takes on something of the personality of each of these ladies to present their music.
With songs like Careless Love Blues, St Louis Blues, After You’ve Gone, and Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out I would be happy with a whole show dedicated to Bessie Smith. It is fascinating to hear stories of how successful Bessie became during her short life. Getting everyone to sing along with Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair is one of the more unusual audience participation numbers I’ve seen for a while.
Bonnie showed that Billie Holiday was capable of a lightness of touch with songs like My Sweet Hunk Of Trash and I Hear Music, as well as the darker numbers for which she is known. Strange Fruit perhaps a surprise omission, but we do get Gloomy Sunday, a song Bonnie explains was so depressing that it was banned from airplay for many decades for fear that it might encourage suicide!
Bonnie is determined to keep the memory of Dinah Washington alive, playing up her personality with songs like Makin’ Whoopee, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Relax Max, and the fact that she had nine husbands!
While there are hints that each of these ladies endured some hard times, (each of them dying before their 45th birthday) Bonnie keeps it light and entertaining with some memorable music. These were, after all, women who performed and recorded with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton & Quincy Jones.
I saw this show when it was first presented at the Fringe in 2016. At that stage it was perhaps a little raw and under-rehearsed. This time around the show is confident, classy and contains some great songs, stories and musicianship.