Reviewed by: Kerstyn Dance
I’ll admit that before going into this performance, I had no idea who Ned Rorem was and why he was so special that someone would so carefully curate such a dedication to him through song.
However, by the (somewhat sad) closing tune I was suddenly a new fan, vowing to send myself down some kind of Wikipedia wormhole when I got home. What a guy!! The kind of artistic intellectual you’ve love to use as your answer to the age-old ‘who would you most want as a dinner guest, alive or dead?’
Not knowing what to expect, it transpired that the 45 Downstairs venue was a perfect choice as I walked into the softly-lit pink hues of the intimate setting, the sounds of a piano playing gently, a pile of Ned Rorem’s works artfully stacked beside a piano. The cool, relaxed setting which felt as though it could easily be a post-war underground European club was well-selected to not outshine cabaret singer Belinda Hanne Reid (Depserettes, 2018) with piano accompaniment by Coary Green.
Pianist, Coary Green introduces the performance with a passionate but short monologue, allowing the uninitiated to immerse themselves into the mindset, imagination and outrageous lifestyle of Ned Rorem – a highly decorated writer, diarist, composer, observer and lover – from whose diaries the entire contents of the show were adapted.
Mezzo soprano singer Belinda Hanne Reid’s voice was polished and had a powerful range, effortlessly switching between the burning passion and seething hatred tones of the prose – bringing the audience along the rollercoaster ride of Rorem’s life’s highs and lows and transporting them into each intimate moment, breaking up the musical numbers with direct spoken quotes from his diary.
The performance was funny, cheeky and painted such a vivid picture of mid-century Paris and America that it was easy to visualise each intimate scene as it was brought to life.
In summary, a candid, beautiful ode to a free-spirited artist who pushed boundaries even in the mid-20th century bohemian art community with the detailed, articulate memoirs of his outrageous, wild and raunchy lifestyle – falling in and out of love with the multiple muses who inspired his passionate works.
3.5 – stars
Love, Rorem ran for two nights only in February as part of the 2020 Midsumma Festival. For more information about Belinda Hanne Reid, check out her Facebook page.