It’s easy for people, these days, to simply dismiss The Carpenters as being lightweight AM radio fodder, not worthy of any real close attention. The Carpenters Songbook, a career retrospective of the duo’s best-known songs, presented by Night Owl Shows, forces a change of this perspective and quickly reminding us that there is high quality song-craft underpinning these familiar tunes, and that The Carpenters’ recordings readily compare to any classic twentieth century compositions and/or productions that always seem to elicit the higher critical praise.
Reine Beau Anderson Dudley sings these hits beautifully, never trying to slavishly emulate Karen Carpenter’s original vocal stylings, yet delivering interpretations that are often equally as stunningly emotive and affective as the originals.
Just like the sadly deceased reluctant superstar she is paying tribute to, Dudley has the admirable ability to move deftly from the lower vocal ranges through to the declarative higher notes with seamless ease. Her intonation and diction are perfect, and her love for the material shines through in every song.
For the most part, the set moves through the history of the duo’s all too brief recording career in chronological order, through to approximately 1974. The show starts off with a rendition of The Beatles’ Ticket To Ride, before working through the signature tunes, (They Long To Be) Close To You and We’ve Only Just Begun, and, along the way to the concluding pre-encore number, Yesterday Once More, we also get to hear other staples such as We’ve Only Just Begun, Superstar, Rainy Days And Mondays and Goodbye To Love.
The Night Owl show band, led by the versatile Dan Clews, provide sympathetic accompaniment throughout the show, always alert to the needs of the song, and to giving their star vocalist the necessary space to shine.
The first show of this production’s short season started with three songs performed solo by Clews, spruiking some of the other Night Owl shows being performed at the Fringe. Whilst his performance of these songs was certainly up to his usual high standard, it did steal some of the available time away from performing what the audience had come to hear – the songs of The Carpenters. This meant that some punters felt a little short changed after getting only a ten song overview, when there could have been time for more hits such as Hurting Each Other, Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft or There’s A Kind Of Hush!
Whilst there is only one more Carpenters show scheduled this time around, Reine Beau Anderson Dudley is also performing an Amy Winehouse tribute later in this year’s Fringe. It will be fascinating to see how she employs her interpretive skills and vocal artistry whilst inhabiting the songs of yet another talented artist who succumbed far too early to the pressures of fame.
By: Ken Grady
Rating: 5 stars
The Carpenters Songbook will be performed at the Regal Theatre, 275 Kensington Rd, Kensington Park, on Sunday March 1, at 3pm.
Tickets available here: The Carpenters Songbook