Rhonda Burchmore Talks About Her New show ‘A Red Hot Swingin’ Christmas’

Australia’s leading lady of cabaret Rhonda Burchmore has released her latest album A Red Hot Swingin’ Christmas and Markus Hamence Presents is debuting the live show at The Regal Theatre for three shows on the 18th and 19th November. Everyone loves a Christmas song and Burchmore is breathing new life into some old classics with the help of eighteen-piece big band, The Jack Earle Big Band.

Burchmore is the ‘undisputed queen of Christmas’ with year after year appearing in Carols by Candlelight, Carols in the Domain and the Lord Mayor’s Christmas Carols. Her new show is going to be a red, hot swingin’ time and Hi-Fi Way had a chat to Rhonda Burchmore where she guaranteed a few things from her shows; gorgeous gowns, lots of fun and a special appearance of those famous legs!

You’re debuting your show A Red Hot Swingin’ Christmas here in Adelaide, what can audiences look forward to in this show?
For a start I adore The Regal Theatre in Kensington, it’s one of my favourites, most intimate theatres and I had the joy since it re-opened in doing several shows there so this show is quite passionate and heartfelt. As you know the last couple of years have been absolutely diabolical for us in the industry and the one project that kept me sane and with hope was creating this album, which is the show, A Red Hot Swingin’ Christmas. Christmas for me it’s a really, really special time of year and it’s always been my favourite and the young Jack Earle who is only twenty six years old and its quite a genius. He sat with me, and we went through all our favourite Christmas songs and thought ‘wouldn’t it be great to do these with a big band and put our own spin on it?’ I mean we had high goals and inspiration from Michael Bublé, Ella Fitzgerald and Harry Connick Jnr.

The hardest thing about recording the album was to get the musicians all play in the one space because of all he lockdowns we had in Melbourne so when we actually got there ABC music listened to one track and they thought it was fabulous and wanted to run with it and I don’t know how long it’s been since a Christmas big band album has been released in Australia. So fast forward to the concerts at The Regal, Markus thought what a great idea to bring this show into the beautiful theatre. It suits the Art Deco feel of the regal and this concert evokes all the music of those big bands of the 40s and that’s what we are going to bring to the Regal. We want to transport people back to that time of big bands.

The band in your show is The Jack Earle Big Band who are considered one of the finest jazz ensembles, have you played with the band before or is it the first time?
I’m a woman of a certain age and just the relationship we have as best friends, it’s ridiculous! I first worked with him about seven years ago and I’ve been in the business forty years, and I’ve never met anyone with his incredible ability to jump from pop to jazz to big band to his arrangements and be so young! I just knew I had to work with him! The two of us have this really quirky amazing work relationship where we just fire off each other. After the last few disastrous years, I needed a project mainly for my mental health and this was something that the two of us threw ourselves into and it’s a great result and we can’t wait to premiere it in Adelaide.

This Christmas album, A Red Hot Swingin’ Christmas you recorded with Jack, will there be songs from the album at the show?
Yes! The whole album. It’s virtually the launch of the album at The Regal. It will be the first time we will hear it and we have local musicians down there and I can guarantee splendiferous gowns and wonderful stories about Christmas and some humour. It won’t be your normal Christmas show with your favourite hits. All the songs have been reimagined and the old Regal Theatre will be swinging from the rafters! (laughs). It’s going to be a big sound and fabulous!

So obviously you be singing all the classics that people love but have your own twist to them.
Yes, for example we do We Need a Little Christmas which is from the musical Mame and I’ve done that a million times the standard way and Jack managed to take that old chestnut of a song and turn it into this extraordinary big band swing version. Same with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas which is in there because it’s my all-time favourite Christmas song but we’ve also put a twist on that one. We even do a swing version of Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody and Let It Snow which is usually an up-tempo, jaunty kind of song but we do a pulled back, very sexy by the fire kind of version, like a slow burn!

It really sounds like an exciting fun kind of show. Not your kind of stock standard kind of Christmas show.
It won’t be your Silent Night or Marys Boy Child kind of show. Think Michael Bublé and Ella Fitzgerald with a bit of a twist that’s what audiences will get.

With that Rhonda Burchmore exciting energetic fun vibe!
Oh yeah! I won’t give it away, but we do a very cheeky Christmas song in the second half. I think audiences will be really surprised and it will be a joyful time. I think it will fit like a glove in the glorious Regal theatre.

What is it about Christmas songs that people just love and never get tired of them even if they are re-done?
After the last few years, we’ve had, and people have thought it’s now time to really celebrate family and friends and life. It’s been clear that people haven’t been able to celebrate these things so it’s going to be special, and those songs carry all the more meaning and the lyrics. Certainly, for me the song I’ll Be Home For Christmas. It’s been a hard time so people can wind back a bit and “Its Christmas time! It’s party time!”

You mentioned earlier that Christmas is a special time for you, why is it special for you and do you have a special memory?
Personally, it’s kind of bittersweet for me because I’ve lost all of my family and life is like in the blink of an eye and you never know what’s around the corner. For me as a kid growing up it was always such a special time with music in the house, the Christmas lights and all those Christmas decorations. I live in Melbourne, but my Mum, Dad and sister would come down from Sydney and see me perform at the Myer Music Bowl for Carols by Candlelight. Now that they are all gone this show will be a beautiful memory and it kind of evokes all those wonderful times as a kid.

You are a very energetic and lively performer so what keeps you motivated to keep on performing?
I was currently doing Hairspray and I will be coming to Adelaide with the show, which was eight shows a week. It’s a lot but we’ve just finished the run. I know I’m of a certain age, but I have no plans retiring even though some of my friends are and I think it would kill me to have to stop doing what I love. My thing is as long as you enjoy doing it so why not? If you can bring joy to other people I think that’s what keeps me motivated. I don’t have a time limit and I will go full out until I can’t anymore. Hopefully the Gods will look after me health wise. That’s what makes me happy.

It shows in your performances how much you enjoy it and how much joy it brings to you which therefore transforms to the audience. Why would you want to stop something that’s you can still do?
Well, that’s the thing, if you Google me, you’ll find that I first went on stage at the age of two and it was pretty crazy that I still get an absolute kick out of walking on stage and creating new projects. Meeting people at the stage door and they say, “Oh my God you’ve brought back this memory!” or “The show was so wonderful.” All of those things and the people are so important, and you can give back bit of joy. You’re absolutely right they know if you’re really enjoying it and it does transfer to the audience. They go away having a really good time.

As an audience member I get the feel and vibe from the performer. If I can feel it from them, it’s a really electric atmosphere.
That’s like when we talk about the young lad Jack Earle, who is in his twenties, the chemistry between me, him and the big band is like we all have each other’s back which is a really joyous experience to perform together. We are also picking up other local musicians from Adelaide that we’ve worked with before.

It’s so hard for performers during the last few years with people cutting back and using backing tracks but there’s nothing like singing with a live band and live musicians. Sure, there’s no safety net there but it’s quite thrilling to do it. That’s why I’m always waving the flag for live musicians. The guys in the band are skilled performers and they will be doing solos and its quite thrilling.

So, it looks like it’s going to be a swinging big time for the show!
I will throw in there, there will be a huge dose of Rhonda glamour in terms of glorious gowns that will match the vibe of The Regal Theatre. The boys will be in suits, and it will be a gorgeous time! We have three shows including a matinee for those who don’t like to come out at night! I will be signing copies of our brand-new album after the show so there will be a meet ‘n greet!

I wouldn’t expect anything less glamourous from you!
Mind you I do have all these gorgeous gowns but I do slip into a very cheeky, short and tiny red Christmas Santa suit, so the legs will be making an appearance as well! (laughs). It will be mostly gowns but I promise the legs will make an appearance!

Interview by Anastasia Lambis

Tickets to A Red Hot Swingin’ Christmas show HERE

%d bloggers like this: