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REVIEW: Rhonda Burchmore ‘Tall Tales’ – Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2024

Review by Markus Hamence – Performance Wednesday 12 June 2024, Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Stand clear as Rhonda Burchmore opens her memory vault and shares the souvenirs, stories, and selfies collected over a lifetime in the limelight… Hear Rhonda’s Tall Tales of the rich and famous, from Presidents to Hollywood stars, Grammy winners to take away dinners on her own tours from hell, this literal icon (2014 Cabaret Icon Award Winner) shares wicked and wonderful stories and killer songs as only she can. Let’s discuss the show…

If there’s one name synonymous with Australian entertainment royalty, it’s Rhonda Burchmore. Her latest show, ‘Tall Tales,’ presented at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, is nothing short of a spectacular blend of charm, wit, and powerhouse performances.

A Dazzling Opening

As the Dunstan Playhouse lights dimmed, the audience hushed, and we knew we were about to see an Australian entertainment old-school professional who knows each and every board of most stages across Australia. Introduced by her loyal friend (bestie) and very accomplished and talented musical director, Jack Earle, Rhonda Burchmore strutted onto the stage with the confidence and charisma of a seasoned performer who knows she has the audience in the palm of her hand. Dressed in a glittering black ensemble that consisted of a jacket and short shorts that caught the light with every movement, she launched into her first number ‘Pretty Legs’ with a voice that filled the room, setting the tone for an evening of unforgettable entertainment. It began.

Stories That Sparkle

True to its name, ‘Tall Tales’ is a delightful journey through Rhonda’s life and career, punctuated by anecdotes that range from the hilarious to the heartfelt. Each story was delivered with perfect timing, drawing laughs and applause from the crowd. Whether she was recounting her early days in showbiz including the many years on ‘Hey, Hey It’s Saturday’, the ‘Jungle’ period or sharing backstage escapades, Rhonda’s storytelling was as engaging as her singing. It was enjoyable hearing them all especially here Molly Meldrum, Brooke Shields and Michael Jackson segment, which of course led to a MJ song. Another element that engaged us hungry punters was the visuals up on a screen as that formed the backdrop to the stage. Images of Rhonda and friends and situations were fun, provoking and sentimental, from Mickey Rooney, to dirty toilets and from Bette Midler to Brooke Shields… the images added a layer that offered a further glimpse into the life of our beloved performer.

Rhonda on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!

Musical Brilliance

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Rhonda Burchmore show without sensational music. Her setlist was a mix of classic cabaret numbers, contemporary hits, and even a few surprising covers that showcased her versatility. Each song a first in any of her solo shows, which was a joy. Whether it be the hilarious Xanadu (complete with stories of the most hideous hotel she had stayed at), Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’ or the fun ‘Screw Loose’, Rhonda belted it out the park with a voice that is very much hers but almost is a channelled version of Marlene Dietrich. Every song was performed with a level of energy and passion that only someone of Rhonda’s calibre can deliver. Highlights included a soulful rendition of (Previously mentioned) Michael Jackson ‘She’s (He’s) Out Of My Life’ and an emotionally charged performance of ‘Come In From The Rain’. A delicious duet with Jack ‘Slow Boat To China’ was frought with sound difficulties at the beginning which only emphasised how professional this leading lady is.

Daryl Sommers, Rhonda and Ossie Ostrich on Hey, Hey It’s Saturday

I’d Tap That

But hang on, just when you thought Rhonda could not fit anything more into the hour show, out come the tap shoes, and tap she did. ‘My Discarded Men’ (complete with fun visuals up on screen) saw the very fit Burchmore tap her way tirelessly through the number in a homage to her earlier musical theatre days while poking warranted fun at Trump, Clinton and more. It was remarkable, fun and fitting. She is a triple threat still it seems.

The Band Behind the Magic

Supporting Rhonda was a top-notch band that perfectly complemented her performance. The musicians were in sync with her every move, providing a rich, dynamic sound that elevated the entire experience. The chemistry between Rhonda and her band was evident, adding another layer of enjoyment to the show. If there’s a show in Australia without Jack Earle it’s not worth doing, his brilliance is pulp-able and the connection he and Burchmore have is endearing, the trust she has in Jack is evident. Jack of course graced the grand piano. Tony Floyd on drums and Jordan Torento on bass competed and very sound band. Bravo guys for keeping up with this long-legged, siren of stage.

Audience Interaction

One of the most endearing aspects of the evening was Rhonda’s interaction with the audience. She effortlessly broke the fourth wall, inviting the crowd to join in on the fun. Her quick wit and playful banter created a sense of intimacy, making it feel as though she was performing in a room full of friends rather than a large theatre. She pokes fun at her self more than anyone and this is what we connect with mostly in my opinion. She serious, and yet, doesn’t take her self seriously.

A Grand Finale

The show, written by Linda Nagle and directed by Gary Young, concluded with a spectacular finale of ‘The World Goes Round’ that brought the audience to their feet. Rhonda’s final number was a tour de force, showcasing her vocal prowess and leaving everyone wanting more. As the last note resonated, the applause was very appreciative, a testament to the incredible talent and hard work that went into ‘Tall Tales’ and of course a long and very enduring career that shows NO SIGN of stopping any time soon.

Final Thoughts

Rhonda Burchmore’s ‘Tall Tales’ is a masterclass in cabaret performance. It’s a show that celebrates the highs and lows of a remarkable career with humor, grace, and unmatched talent. For anyone lucky enough to attend the Adelaide Cabaret Festival thus far, this was undoubtedly a highlight. Rhonda has once again proven why she is one of Australia’s most beloved entertainers, leaving an indelible mark on everyone who had the pleasure of witnessing her brilliance.

If you ever have the chance to see Rhonda Burchmore live, do yourself a favor (Thanks Molly) and get a ticket. ‘Tall Tales’ is a reminder of the magic of live performance and the enduring appeal of a true star. Long live our queen of stage.

Unfortunately ‘Tall Tales’ as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2024 was ONE NIGHT ONLY, but I have a feeeling this show is not being put to bed just yet. An encore show perhaps?… Stay tuned my friends.

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