BWW REVIEW: Jennifer Holliday Captures Hearts As She Lifts The Roof Off Sydney Town Hall For SYDNEY CABARET FESTIVAL
Sunday 7th July 2019, 7pm, Sydney Town Hall
The headline act for the inaugural Sydney Cabaret Festival had audiences captivated as Jennifer Holliday shared personal stories and soaring soul songs in an amazing Australian debut concert. The Tony and Grammy Award winner delivered an entertaining and intimate concert as she spoke candidly about her life and career.
Holliday, who is best known for her Tony Award winning portrayal of Effie Melody White in DREAMGIRLS and the related Grammy Award winning single And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going from the soundtrack, made her first trip to Australia for Trevor Ashley's Sydney Cabaret Festival. Presenting 90 minutes of stories and songs supported by an Australian band, she shares unscripted stories to give a genuine and heartfelt insight into her life and career, from being discovered in a Texas church choir to figuring out how to forge a career when dealing with physical and mental illness. She is open and honest whilst not calling for sympathy, a humbleness that makes her even more likeable, as she strives to encourage the awareness and understanding of mental illness in order to remove the stigma that she felt as a young performer in the 1980's.
Linking the songs with stories of personal connection, from first hearing about Barbara Streisand to pieces shifting from a character's torch song to being a personal mantra, Holliday astounds the audience with her incredible voice. She is candid in the truth of her repertoire being one key song she is famous for plus covers of other works to make up a concert but each and every cover is chosen because it means something to her.
Holliday gives the songs a wonderful texture and fullness whilst capturing the emotion of the work with clear text and fabulous interpretations. She gives Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart's My Funny Valentine a lovely languid start which leads to a soaring power. Making an Australian connection with Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager's I'd Rather Leave While I'm In Love has a rich fullness filled with emotion and confidence of the character trying to convince herself that it's better to walk away from a love before it turns sour. Her renditions of Aretha Franklin standards I Say A Little Prayer and Respect channel the Queen of Soul with incredibly moving renditions that have the audience on their feet.
While Jennifer Holliday had a short two concert engagement for the Sydney Cabaret Festival, hopefully Artistic Director Trevor Ashley will take her up on her hints to organise a return Australian Tour.
Jennifer Holliday will also also host a Masterclass on Wednesday 10th July at 5pm.
Photos: John McRae