Mindful that one of his performances at Teatro Vivaldi’s would be on Mother’s Day, Michael Cormick took advantage of the intimate ambiance of Vivaldi’s to prepare a program of love songs more in keeping with the occasion than the advertised songs from Phantom, Les Miserables, Annie or Love Never Dies.
One of the country’s most accomplished music theatre stars, Cormick has performed in leading roles a succession of major musical productions both in Australia and on the West End, and while this program inevitably included songs from musicals, they were from musicals in which he hasn’t yet appeared, and songs which fitted his theme of love in all its various aspects.
Setting a relaxed, laid back tone for the program with a nicely phrased version of Marvin Hamlisch’s What I Did For Love from A Chorus Line, Cormick followed with Ewan MacColl’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, both songs associated with female singers but the lyrics of which are equally compelling when interpreted from the male perspective.
Cormick developed this idea further with two songs by Adele, Rolling in the Deep and Someone Like You, and three songs by Burt Bacharach, Walk on By, Say A Little Prayer and That’s What Friends are For. He also performed a quartet of songs by Stephen Sondheim which included Send in the Clowns, Stay With Me, No One Is Alone and a stunning version of Being Alive.
For some songs Cormick used recorded backing tapes, which, although adding a professional lushness to the sound, gave those songs an unfortunate karaoke feel, especially notable in the John Farnham song Burn For You, and the Adele songs, where his excellent musical director was relegated to simply playing along with the tapes.
For this listener, the use of backing tapes also spoilt the enjoyment of watching the rapport between singer and accompanist as they work together to create a performance. An element so essential for this type of intimate cabaret experience, and one which was so obvious in this performance in the beautiful arrangements for Rogers and Hammerstein’s If I Love You and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
His connecting dialogue was not as polished as one might expect from this calibre of performer, but Love Songs provided a very welcome opportunity to enjoy an excellent collection of songs which display a very different side of Michael Cormick’s prodigious talent in the cosy ambience of Canberra’s little jewel-box of a cabaret venue, Teatro Vivaldi.
Michael Cormick: Love Songs
Teatro Vivaldi – ANU Arts Centre, University Avenue, Canberra
Dates: 7 – 8 May 2016
Image: Michael Cormick
Review: Bill Stephens