Bernadette Robinson is many people when she performs – Judy Garland, Maria Callas, Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, and Shirley Bassey, to name but a few. And for those few moments, she becomes those people. Blessed with a voice of amazing richness and range she brings to life the towering talents of others, while we wonder who she is, and what she sounds like when singing as herself.
Her performance of "I could have danced all night" stops in mid-stream, as she chats to us, wondering what that song would have been like if sung by Streisand, Callas, Parton and Bassey.
And then she shows us, convincingly.
Her Callas soars and falls, hits stellar high notes flawlessly, and shows us that Bernadette could have tackled opera seriously, had not cabaret and comedy intervened. A highlight of said comedy was imagining Julie Andrews as a queen of disco, with cut-glass accent and mannerisms intact. Then Offenbach's "Doll's Song" - showcasing Bernadette's comedic and operatic skills.
The second half strikes a different note. Bernadette becomes Billy Holiday, and the audience becomes quiet and intent, as raw emotion meets musical genius. I have never heard the searingly intense "Strange Fruit", Abel Meeropol's lament for southern lynching, sung better. There was a long pause after that song before applause began – a tribute to its impact. Edith Piaf came next – and again Bernadette catches the mannerisms, the beauty and the pain.
Given the depth and the impact of Billy Holiday, Piaff and Callas, I was a little surprised to hear her choose Burt Bacharach's '(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me' as her encore. Brilliantly sung, but frothy compared to what had gone before. It was an evening to remember – comedy, cabaret, and the evocation of musical memories, brought to life again by a consummate actress, who is also a superb singer.
Bernadette tells us that she has a new show in the planning, loosely written around events in the White House.