When I think legendary, Caroline O’Connor’s name immediately comes to mind. The down-to-earth Broadway and West End performer was no different in her first solo show in Brisbane – From ‘Broadway with Love.’ The phenomenal singer and actress arrived on The Cremorne Theatre stage at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre and was ready to perform for an audience after over 12 months of no live theatre. As she graced the stage she bowed to the floor, praised, and ‘kissed’ it as if a huge weight had been lifted. The past year she was not able to perform, which she was put on this earth to do.
Caroline is known for her over three-decade career in the theatre and entertainment industry, particularly wowing audiences as the sassy Velma in Chicago in Australia and on Broadway, kickstarting her career in America. So, it was perfectly fitting that she commenced the concert with an awe-inspiring rendition of ‘All that Jazz’ from the award-winning show, presenting her stunning vocal range and even added a few of the iconic Fosse dance moves into the number.
In between songs she spoke to the audience like they were an old friend and was completely herself. Her stories were so detailed and personal but so lively too. She was born in England to Irish parents and moved to Australia at an early age and her mother put her into Irish dancing and she lit up talking about how she adored it and all the different styles of dance. Caroline’s little anecdotes especially of her parents and childhood were comedic and gave the audience a well-rounded sense into who she is as she prepared to sing a gorgeous Irish song and kissed the sky as she dedicated it to her folks.
Caroline continued to showcase her diverse stage highlights and began performing ‘De-Lovely’ and the title song from the delightful musical ‘Anything goes’. She then explains that when she played Anita in West Side Story, she always watched side stage Riff and the Jetts perform ‘Cool’ and desperately wanted to sing it, so she belted out the swarve song for the audience.
The talented performer was so grateful to be on stage and loved that she had her live band join her. She introduced her musicians with such pride including Daniel Edmonds her Musical Director and on Piano, Mark Charters on Drums, Justin Bliss on Bass and Barrie Shaw her husband on Reeds. Caroline expressed her love for them and her husband Barrie, how he always was by her side travelling and candidly joked with him on stage.
Caroline spoke about how she has been performing all over the world since she was incredibly young and spent around 10 years in England finding work on stage. She was approached about doing a show called ‘Mack and Mabel’ and was nominated for a prestigious Olivier Award for the role as she joked that she was set up and would not win that year with Dame Judy Dench and Elaine Paige both in her category as she sung a gorgeous song from that musical.
There was a brief instrumental break and the gorgeous Aussie soul arrived back on stage with a fun costume change and she emerged with the sultry track ‘Roxanne’ which she famously performed the tango to in the iconic Baz Luhrmann film, Moulin Rouge. Caroline reminisced about her time working on that large scale movie and revealed that she initially was not going to audition as she thought she was too old. She was in her early 30’s and slayed the role of Nini and absolutely loved that world.
All her stories combined with performance were wonderful. She poured her heart out as she divulged about being invited to perform at the infamous Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday party singing ‘Broadway Baby’ and still could not believe her luck that she was able to sing at the Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall for new musical ‘A Christmas Story.’
As the sensational concert was ending, she went over to her Musical Director, Daniel Edmonds and slowed down to sing an original song that Daniel wrote for Caroline and summed up how grounded and respected she is in the industry by her peers especially. She then closed the show with a song she sung at her citizenship ceremony. It was a delicious version of ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ with the inclusion of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ in the mix and brought home her Australian roots and appealed to the audience’s heartstrings with a few tears shed.
Caroline O’Connor’s, From Broadway with Love felt like we were in New York, experiencing an intimate cabaret in an old dusty beautiful theatre and a brilliant way to bring back musical solo artists to Brisbane. She brought her funny, raw, talented energy to the room and unedited self – including an accidental burp in the middle of the show. The audience loved it and it was a perfect night at the theatre.