As the State Theatre’s largely baby boomer audience with some Gen X and even a few sprinklings of Gen Z ( offspring of some true fans I am sure ) took their seats Saturday night for Nikki Bennett’s tribute to Helen Reddy, it was clear that all were in the mood for a good trip down memory lane.
And from the moment Nikki took to the stage singing Delta Dawn we all knew we were in for a treat.
The 2.5 hour show that followed was an exhilarating, enchanting and masterfully performed look into the life of an Australian superstar. An icon to millions of women around the world, Helen had a difficult and often heartbreaking life story which Nikki weaved intelligently between the carefully chosen songs that represent different stages of her life. Interestingly, Bennett chose to switch between herself as an admirer, sharing stories of Helen’s life from her own perspective, to Reddy herself through song. When she sings she is Helen or at least her version of Helen and it is dynamic.
Bennett’s voice is stunning and whilst many artists fall short in their tributes to the legends that they try and portray, this show, and Bennett’s talent is definitely a proper and fitting tribute to the legend that was Helen Reddy.
Masterfully sung, a mention must also be made of Bennett’s Band “The Invincibles “ who provided the perfect back up and of the lighting design who managed to make even lighting a concert type stage with minimal movement interesting.
Bennett has taken on a huge task in this solo performed, written and directed show but together with her music director, has done herself proud. Its is difficult in such a show to choose a favourite song – some of the many highlights for me included “Delta Dawn”, “I don’t know how to Love Him”( from Jesus Christ Superstar ) and “That Ain’t no way to treat a Lady” but as with anything that has to do with Helen, the best and most iconic of all songs was alluded to during the bio of Helen’s life but saved till the end.
A stirring rendition of I am Woman had the audience bursting to get out of their seats and sing a long and then it happened – the encore! On one of the first nights since the recent Omicron outbreak – Bennett invited the audience (now allowed) to get up and sing with her and with the entire theatre on its feet singing “I am Woman” it is hard to imagine that there will ever be song for the sisterhood of females that will ever replace the mantra, “I am Woman - Hear me Roar.“
This show unfortunately only spent one night at the State theatre but Bennett is taking it on tour through NSW and Qld and Vic and if you get a chance to see her anywhere I would highly recommend that you grab your best friend, mother, daughter, sister, aunt and even your baby boomer husband ( there were many in the audience who loved it as much, if not more than their wives ) and head to a night of pure nostalgia and first class entertainment. I never got to see Helen Reddy live although I have always loved her music, but in Bennett, I feel I got pretty damn close!!