Sunday, April 14, 2019

WITH GRACE -Bronte Kellam-Pearson

Musical Direction by Stephen Kreamer – Directed by Bobby Fox – Produced by Drew Bailey
The Polit Bar, Manuka, 6th April 2019

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Grace Kelly seems an unlikely subject for a cabaret show, given that the only film which featured her singing was “High Society”.  However it proved a shrewd choice for Bronte Kellam-Pearson, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Kelly.

Kellam-Pearson has collected a repertoire of classic film songs and interwoven them with an interesting narration outlining Kelly’s career and her apparently voracious appetite for celebrity lovers, until she eventually meets her dream lover, who happened to be the Prince of Monaco.

Interpolating Jerome Kern’s “Lovely to Look At” and Cole Porters “You’ve Got that Thing” when explaining Kelly’s success in films, Cole Porter’s “Night and Day”  when listing Kelly’s  lovers  who included Gary Cooper, Clarke Gable and Ray Milland, and elsewhere , Rodgers and Hart’s “Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered” and Jerome Kern’s “Just the Way you Look Tonight” complimented the storytelling. 

However, not all  the songs fitted  comfortably into the narration, and not all of them suited Kellam-Pearson’s voice type, which despite the sensitive accompaniments of Stephen Kreamer on keyboards, tended  to become strident in up-tempo songs like Cole Porter’s “The Lady is a Tramp”.  

Appearing more comfortable delivering the narration than the songs, Kellam-Pearson occasionally gave the impression that the songs were there to simply pad out the story, rather than being integral. Perhaps the tiny performance space in the Polit Bar may have contributed to this impression, as she had very little room to move out from behind the microphone to vary her presentation or display Bobby Fox’s direction.

It was not until the second half that Kellam-Pearson began to inhabit the songs. Her wistful interpretation of Charles Strouse’s “Once Upon a Time”, and her beautifully executed finale, were highlights, confirming the impression that “With Grace” is still a work in progress, which once mastered, will become an elegant showcase for the undoubted talents of Bronte Kellam-Pearson.

 This review also appears in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.