Invincible – The Helen Reddy Story
Written and Performed by Nikki Bennett
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
Have you ever seen a tribute act that caused you to appreciate the original performer even more than you did?
The other time this happened was in 1981 with Jeannie Lewis’ creation, Piaf, The Songs and The Story.
Invincible – The Helen Reddy Story opens big, with Delta Dawn which highlights Nikki Bennett’s ability to replicate Helen Reddy’s slightly nasal, Australian/Nashville vocal characteristics. Apparently, Bennett was inspired by her parents continuously playing tapes of Helen Reddy songs on road trips.
The show takes us from Reddy’s beginnings in Australia to going to the U.S. where she started out doing covers such as You’re My World. I Don’t How to Love Him from Jesus Christ Superstar was also a major hit for Reddy.
Equally important as the songs is the narration of the eventful life of Helen Reddy which is crammed with ironies. I had only known about one of them. In the early 1970s when involved in the business, I was told that in the era in which Helen Reddy was singing I Am Woman, the anthem of the global feminist movement, she was literally, emotionally and economically being beaten up by her manager/husband. That said, Reddy freely admitted that if it wasn’t for him and his promotional ability, she wouldn’t have had the success that she experienced. There were other parts of her life that were just as intriguing.
The narration makes clear the reasons for Helen Reddy recording some of the songs she did. Ain’t No Way the Treat a Lady, You and Me Against The World and I Can’t Say Goodbye to You reflect various stages of Reddy’s life.
Bennett uses the device of flashbacks and flash forwards to enable I Am Woman to be the deserved climax of the show. Apart from that seminal hit that defined Helen Reddy’s legacy, Bennett’s renditions of Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress), and Angie Baby, accompanied by her four-piece band, are nothing short of magnificent.
If Nikki Bennett’s phenomenal production of Invincible – The Helen Reddy Story makes it to the United States, it will certainly be a triumph. I don’t know of another Helen Reddy tribute show anywhere in the world, and Bennett’s creation is masterful.