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Review : High Tea Live at the Arts Centre, Melbourne

By Kerrie Batrouney

It was the first day of Summer on a cold and wet Melbourne day as we headed off to the Melbourne Arts Centre for High Tea Live with Danielle Matthews singing the songs of Shirley Bassey. My Mum used to like Shirley Bassey - they were born in the same year and had the same hairstyle! As such, I know many of her songs, so I was looking forward to a trip down memory lane and I wasn’t disappointed. Danielle Matthews presented a repertoire of upbeat anthems and slower, memorable songs...she was Shirley Bassey!

The high tea is held in the pavilion room at the Arts Centre. The room is surprisingly large, the event is clearly popular. We get a glass of champagne, a three-tiered cake stand containing yummy savoury and sweet offerings and generous amounts of tea and coffee. We enjoyed a convivial chat with our tablemates - they were here for both the high tea and Danielle / Shirley. Other tables were filled with family groups and groups of friends having a day out. High Tea Live happens on the first Sunday of every month. Each month a different artist performs so that each event has something different to offer. Sometimes it’s Jazz, sometimes it’s Broadway tunes, often dedicated to a singing icon, such as Edith Piaf, Ella Fitzgerald or of course Shirley.

The band is led by Adam Przewlocki on piano, including a drummer and bass player. Danielle bursts onto the stage, sparkling in red and belts out “Hey Big Spender” with plenty of Shirley Bassey attitude. Danielle has an impressive vocal range - as you would need to sing Dame Shirley Bassey’s songs. The songs are interspaced with anecdotes of Shirley’s life - she seems to have had her fair share of ups and downs and the song selection cleverly reflects this. Danielle put a personal slant on the stories, there are a number of parallels to her own life. Danielle is well known for her one woman show “The Songs of Shirley Bassey”and as such, she is clearly comfortable in the role, making it really a fabulous show.

Shirley Bassey is epic, she has sold over 140 million records and had the longest span of hits ever by a female singer. Many people, when they think of the songstress from Wales, think of James Bond theme music, but she had many more hits than this and all were familiar to us. Danielle did an excellent job of the songs which were upbeat one moment, sad and emotional the next. Her powerful voice does Shirley justice and it was very entertaining.

Ultimately, I just couldn't stop myself from thinking - They just really don’t write songs like that anymore. They are songs about feelings, sung with feeling. My favourite was “Something” but the show included all the favourites, “History Repeating”, “Never Say Never”, “Goldfinger”, “Kiss Me Honey Honey”.

It’s a high tea with benefits! As we left the arts centre full and humming our favourites, we were not discussing what hidden meaning or message the performance was trying to get across, we just knew we’d had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and that we would have these great tunes embedded in our heads for the coming days.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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