By Lisa Lanzi
You have to love a spellbinding tale of a Sydney girl making her way as a Broadway performer. So many of us dreamed this dream but Kay Tuckerman pursued it and nailed it. Her journey is beautifully shared in song and with heartfelt revelations about the ups and downs along the way with the assistance of John Thorn as musical director.
The Adelaide Festival Centre Banquet Room has been reimagined as the glamorous Blue Room and is a fabulous cabaret venue for our 2019 Festival with tables and chairs plus dedicated bar. It is a shame there wasn’t more audience present to bask in Ms Tuckerman’s soaring vocals.
With an outstanding three piece band, Kaye Tuckerman presented us with her original interpretations of favourite songs as she wove her story into and around the music, in true cabaret style. The atmosphere was all about positivity in the face of change and knockbacks, no matter what your dream might be - just follow it all the way, like Pippin in a rousing Corner of the Sky.
Tuckerman recalls her father taking her to see Annie as a ten year old. Having no idea that you could do ‘that’ as a job, she just wanted to ‘be’ Annie. Her stage career began by taking part in various amateur musicals productions around Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Singing the Eurythmics Sweet Dreams Are Made of This, Ms Tuckerman reminded us that every hero has many stages of a journey to work through and hopefully, it is worth it in the long run.
Despite her vast experience and phenomenal vocals, Tuckerman admitted that it was confronting to be on stage as ‘herself’ rather than as a character to be portrayed. And there was the occasional slip up, be it cueing difficulties or a very slight note-finding wobble. I also sensed a certain fragility around this performer in her first performance back in Australia after ten years away. The nervous tension was very present as she told her emotional stories and perhaps with her mum in the audience, Ms Tuckerman was knocked a little off centre. It did not lessen the power of the singing or the narrative, but I was surprised that this experienced performer seemed so affected by nervousness.
As the show unfolded, Tuckerman became somewhat more comfortable within the situation and the songs were outstanding. We heard tales of ‘hanging out’ with Oscar, Emmy and Tony award winners, about her film work in Africa, the rigours of auditioning in New York and the struggle to obtain a Green Card. Oddly enough the news about the successful application arrived with she was working on design for a National Geographic film, the lawyer announcing that ‘Obama had granted her a Green Card’. A jubilant version of New York New York followed as Ms Tuckerman told of excitement tinged with heartache as she said goodbye to loved ones to truly move herself to New York.
In the Big Apple, performers might be attending 3 or even 4 auditions a day amongst (literally) line-ups of other awesomely talented folk and so rejection is something you get very used to, along with the occasional call-back and if you are very lucky, a casting. Within six weeks of having that Green Card in her hand, Ms Tuckerman was cast as Donna Sheridan in a national tour of Mama Mia! the musical. The excitement of that achievement was still palpable as Tuckerman told the story and gave us a delightful mash-up of Money Money Money, Mama Mia and Waterloo. The tour was a lengthy and gruelling two years throughout 144 cities across the US and Canada and certainly gave our leading lady some great credentials. Sadly this tour was rocked by the suicide of one of the leading men and Tuckerman truly shone singing her emotive version of Bob Telson’s Calling You from the movie Bagdad Café.
Following on we heard George Benson’s On Broadway and Don’t Wish Too Hard from The Boy From Oz. Wishing and hoping paid off for Tuckerman as she was next cast in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. Unfortunately injury prevented her from opening in the show but she did join the cast later in the season. Another ballad, Nick Cave’s Little Water Song truly conveyed the depths of great disappointment.
Overall, Tuckerman’s journey has been remarkable AND successful and the show finished with Carole King’s Beautiful and an upbeat Last Dance, the Donna Summer hit. Kaye Tuckerman is obviously a musical force to be reckoned with and we are fortunate to have her back in Australia, at least for the next little while.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.