Hayes Theatre, October 2


For some they come true. When Nancye Hayes was in her teens she used to sing and dance along to records of Broadway shows; to dream of playing starring roles. Now here she was, 58 years after her professional debut (My Fair Lady) and 52 years after her first starring role (Sweet Charity), singing, dancing and reminiscing in the theatre that’s named after her. How do you top that?

Nancye Hayes. Photos: Branco Gaica.

Renaming the little venue after Hayes when it became dedicated to musicals and cabaret nearly six years ago was inspired. Not only did she play leading characters in the Australian premieres of many major musicals (including Chicago, Annie and Sweeney Todd), she remains among the most convincing actor/singer/dancer triple-threats the country has ever produced.

This show was a reminder that her appeal, artistry, success and legacy are all rooted much more deeply than in a highly developed set of skills, however. Hayes has always had that special radiance that turns a performer into a star. As with the ones in the night sky, the twinkling qualities involved are difficult to pinpoint, but her particular charisma combines glamour and warmth in equal measure, aided by keen instincts for everything from comic timing to mimicry and mime.

Devised by Tony Sheldon and directed by Jason Langley, the show traced Hayes’ life and career not with the hard lines of chronology, but with engaging intimacy and a light touch laced with Sheldon’s wit. Rather than labouring through a swag of songs from her best-known shows, Hayes mostly flitted between snippets, teasers and cleverly-altered lyrics, intermingled with entertaining anecdotes.

She was accompanied by musical director Michael Tyack (piano) and Dave Ellis (bass), and for two songs (including My Foolish Heart) was joined by her husband, the saxophonist Bob Bertles, who is to local jazz what Hayes is to musical theatre. Although the hinges of a few of her notes creaked slightly, this was Hayes still radiating star-power on the stage that rightly bears her name.

Until October 13.