There’s nothing quite like the real thing. That is amply proved by Songs for Nobodies, the season closer from the MTC.
More a cabaret show than a play, this is a vehicle for hugely talented chanteuse Bernadette Robinson, although it is playwright Joanna Murray-Smith who is unjustly given top billing.
This 90-minute diversion presents five diverse and famous singers encapsulated in reminiscences by “nobodies” who crossed their paths.
Robinson morphs seamlessly into the voices of Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and Maria Callas while also taking on the role of those who encountered them: among them a backstage drssser, a pushy journalist and an Irish servant on the Onassis yacht.
There is little new revealed in Murray-Smith’s biographical script but it provides a tightly wiritten and occasional witty link between the characters.
The strength is in Robinson’s performance and Simon Phillips’ direction. Robinson is a huge talent and she steps effortlessly into the shoes and vocal chords of the luminaries she portrays. Close your eyes and you might just be able to imagine Piaf or Callas up there on the Fairfax stage.
But it’s not: and there’s the rub. The voice is there, but not the charisma that made them the legends no one else can match.
Songs for Nobodies is a pleasant and absorbing entertainment from a talented singer. But it fails to move or mesmerise.