Hayes Theatre, July 1
If part of the point of cabaret is to give insight into the person behind the roles on stage or screen, then Simon Burke’s Something About Always certainly ticks the box, and an immensely likable person emerges. The 70-minute show begins with footage from Fred Schepisi’s 1976 film The Devil’s Playground, in which Burke’s performance won him the AFI Best Actor Award at the ripe old age of 13 – the youngest ever winner. Thereafter he took us on a pleasure cruise through his varied career, from playing Carl-Magnus in a London production of A Little Night Music opposite Judi Dench to hosting Playschool.
Burke plied us with anecdotes devoid of that archly scripted feel that blights so many cabaret shows. This was more like someone telling stories at dinner: reminiscences threading together pieces from the many musicals in which he has starred, plus some other favourite songs cooked up with his musical director and accompanist Daniel Edmonds.
So he revisited The Sound of Music, La Cage Aux Folles and Les Miserables, singing with ready conviction. His voice remains a potent instrument, although for all its power his finest work came when singing softly and allowing an affecting vulnerability to colour his upper register, as happened on Eidelweiss, a song that would usually make me wince. Occasionally, however, he did step over the fine line that lies between impassioned and overwrought.
There was no danger of that when he turned to Playschool, beginning with a very funny rendition of the theme, before such soft-toy co-stars as Humpty, Jemima and Big Ted came out, the latter coyly unresponsive to Burke’s I Don’t Know How To Love Him.
Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years provided a feature for the accomplished Edmonds who, like many pianists from musical theatre, tended to be a dense player. In fact if both he and Burke held back more, and offered starker or more intimate renditions of some songs they could turn a good show into a great one.