Review: Prinnie Stevens – Lady Sings the Blues
Friday 5 March 2021 – Queens Theatre – The Chamber
The Queens Theatre in Playhouse Lane, Adelaide is the oldest intact theatre in Australia, established in 1840. It has been used from time to time over the years and the 2021 Adelaide Fringe is no exception.
Out front there are pianos to play and a great bar for pre-dinner drinks. Inside the theatre, the darkness is separated by beautiful and appropriate lighting in a smoke-filled room that really makes the stage and those on it pop.
Prinnie Stevens perhaps most famous for her performances on a number of singing reality shows entered the stage and immediately the crowd were at attention. Accompanied by two fabulous Adelaide musicians Alex Wignall on Piano and Shireen Khemalani on double bass, she didn’t waste a minute of the hour-long show.
There was some clever dialogue to string together her interpretation of artists from Billie Holliday to Beyonce. but it was her voice that was so captivating. With only two musicians to accompany her, Prinnie had no place to hide, and she didn’t need to. This songstress is connected to music from her head to her toes and it is difficult to miss how extremely talented she really is. The beautiful dress, flowers in her hair and natural beauty were just astonishing, but it was her vocal tone and masterful delivery that were to be truly savoured.
Although the title stated, Lady Sings the Blues, there were a few surprises, including Whitney Houston, “Saving all my Love” and the Carole King song, “Natural Woman.”
At one stage, I felt lost in her music, as if I had been enchanted and transported to the 1940’s and in a jazz club in New York where a chanteuse was taking me on a journey so far away from my everyday life.
Paying tribute to Billie Holliday, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Toni Braxton and Beyonce was no easy task but she was up to it in every way. There was some gospel music in the earlier part of the evening and I particularly loved her version of “Eye is on the Sparrow” and the Toni Braxton “Unbreak my Heart”. Holliday’s “Strange Fruit” was a crowd favourite and the story behind this song was heartbreaking.
Lady Sings the Blues was a journey of respect and acknowledgement with a wide-angle lens focused on over 100 years of female musicians, their tragedy and successes. As the artist says, this music will be with us for generations. I will definitely remember my hour in the company of Prinnie Stevens for a long time as one of my Fringe 2021 favourites.
There are two more shows to see on March 6 and 7. Let’s hope this comes back for Cabaret Festival as that is what it is, “Cabaret at its absolute best”.
***** 5 stars
Reviewer – Stephen Foenander for Adelaide Review Team (ART)
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