Tuggeranong Arts Centre,
June 29 and 30
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
Joanna Weinberg’s first visit to the Tuggeranong Arts Centre was as the author/director of a musical called “Every Single Saturday” which has since gone on to have a full professional production. This time with her one-woman cabaret show “The Piano Diaries” for which she wrote all the songs, Weinberg has revealed herself as a consummate cabaret performer and a fascinating singer/songwriter.
Though born in London, Joanna Weinberg spent her childhood in South Africa. She has had an interesting life, much of which is only hinted at in this compelling cabaret.
From the moment she took her place at the piano, elegant in a figure-hugging long dress, long gloves and a red flower tucked in her hair, Weinberg intrigued and enthralled her audience, both as a superb singer and gifted raconteur, gently, and sometimes disconcertingly, revealing significant moments from her life story, most often through the playful, thoughtful, funny and moving lyrics of her tuneful and catchy songs.
The piano was the connecting thread, and she sang of hiding under her grandmother’s African rosewood piano, as a two-year-old, while her grandparents played piano duets (Benjamin and Penelope). As an eleven-year-old, while sitting at the same piano, she witnessed a man being murdered. No one took her statement, so she wrote a haunting song about it, (Witness).
She describes her first boyfriend when she was a thirteen-year-old (Freckled Angels) and tells of running away to America where she worked in cabaret (The Piano at the Cabaret) and played Desdemona in a production of “Othello”.
Her journey eventually brings her to Australia (The Winds of Fear) and she is frank about the difficulties she faced initially in finding work as an entertainer. But it was the song with which she closed her show which most strongly resonated with her Canberra audience, still reeling from the effects of the recent School of Music controversy. Weinberg prefaced her song by asking the audience to imagine a world without musicians, artists, singers and actors. Then painting such a picture with her song “The Artists are leaving”, quietly stood-up and left the stage. The effect was stunning.