Grace Kelly seems an unlikely subject for a cabaret show, given that the only film which featured her singing was High Society. However it proved a shrewd choice for Bronte Kellam-Pearson, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Kelly.
Kellam-Pearson has collected a repertoire of classic film songs and interwoven them with an interesting narration outlining Kelly’s career and her apparently voracious appetite for celebrity lovers, until she eventually meets her dream lover, who happened to be the Prince of Monaco.
Interpolating Jerome Kern’s Lovely to Look At and Cole Porter’s You’ve Got that Thing when explaining Kelly’s success in films, Cole Porter’s Night and Day, when listing Kelly’s lovers who included Gary Cooper, Clarke Gable and Ray Milland, and elsewhere, Rodgers and Hart’s Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and Jerome Kern’s Just the Way you Look Tonight complimented the storytelling.
However, not all the songs fitted comfortably into the narration, and not all of them suited Kellam-Pearson’s voice type, which despite the sensitive accompaniments of Stephen Kreamer on keyboards, tended to become strident in up-tempo songs like Cole Porter’s The Lady is a Tramp.
Appearing more comfortable delivering the narration than the songs, Kellam-Pearson occasionally gave the impression that the songs were there to simply pad out the story, rather than being integral. Perhaps the tiny performance space in the Polit Bar may have contributed to this impression, as she had very little room to move out from behind the microphone to vary her presentation or display Bobby Fox’s direction.
It was not until the second half that Kellam-Pearson began to inhabit the songs. Her wistful interpretation of Charles Strouse’s Once Upon a Time, and her beautifully executed finale, were highlights, confirming the impression that With Grace is still a work in progress, which once mastered, will become an elegant showcase for the undoubted talents of Bronte Kellam-Pearson.
Bronte Kellam-Pearson: With Grace
Polit Bar, 8 Franklin Street, Manuka (Canberra)
Performance: Saturday 6 April 2019 – 8.00pm
Image: Bronte Kellam-Pearson stars in With Grace (supplied)
Review: Bill Stephens OAM