Arts & Entertainment

REVIEW: Casey Donovan’s ‘Irresistible’ Sydney Festival Performance

Casey Donovan. Photo: Yaya Stempler

At 33, Casey Donovan is at the top of her game. Her vocal range is jaw dropping. She sings soulfully to the heavens with the force of an entire gospel choir. She boogies with such delight that the urge to dance is almost irresistible (current NSW restrictions during the peak of a pandemic not withstanding).

Above all else she is comfortable in her own skin. Long gone is the awkward schoolgirl who leapt onto the national stage in 2004. At 16 she was the youngest ever winner of Australian Idol. Back then we couldn’t get enough of Casey’s raw talent.

Seventeen years later she has spent more than half of her life in the spotlight. She has matured into a commanding presence. Donavan is a diva without the attitude. She beams as brightly as the spotlight reflects from her sequin gown. After many long years she has finally found love and is secure in her identity. And it shows.

At this year’s Sydney Festival on the forecourt of St Mary’s Cathedral Donavan belted out tunes with such power that the sandstone towers all but shook and the bats in the belfry had no choice but to get down.

She covered a breathtaking range of songs from Lady Gaga’s dance anthem Born This Way, to Tina Turner’s classic You’re Simply the Best to Chris Stapleton’s country hit Tennessee Whiskey. Her soulful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah was hauntingly beautiful.

Donovan is more than a spectacular cover artist. She is a talented composer in her own right. That night she performed two of her own songs Where Do I Find Love?, a moving piece that was written before she found true love, and Proud which competed in Eurovision. If there was any complaint, it is that she didn’t perform enough of her own music.

Donovan generously boogied until the very end, even though three quarters of the outdoor seats on the forecourt sat empty. Those of us who braved the current Omicron wave happily squirmed in our seats, masked up and struggling to comply with the latest NSW government orders not to dance.

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