There's no denying that in her heyday, Jeanne Little captivated the Australian public. So much so that in 1976, she won the Gold Logie for Most Popular Television Personality, the fifth woman to win it since the awards began in 1960. In Dahlin! It's The Jeanne Little Show, Caroline Ferguson retraces the life of this enigmatic icon with her quirky Aussie drawl and eclectic fashion to offer a look as to how her carefree and playful attitude was based on years of hard work and determination.
Ferguson is great in her impersonation of Jeanne Little with regards to her voice and appearance. Her assortment of clothing, accessories and wigs are very reminiscent of the TV darling, including her infamous garbage-bag dress. The select set pieces build on this world being presented with bright coloured items, an assortment of drinks, her "Quick Cleaning Guide" on tough spills, stains and splashes that she co-wrote with her husband, and of course, the Gold Logie.
While Ferguson gets all the aesthetics correct, it's the narrative she tells that disappoints as she spends most of her time highlighting predictable and expected anecdotes from Little's life. The show discusses her career with The Mike Walsh Show and subsequent media interactions, with guest spots on Parkinson and meeting Princess Diana to name a couple. These are interesting stories, but the energy remains the same and when they are combined, it feels like we're simply working through a checklist of events, so there's never a point of difference between them.
It is when she begins discussing Little's marriage to Barry - and the fact he was in a same-sex relationship before they met in the early 60s - and her abortion, that things take surprising turns and you begin to wonder why we waited so long to get to the good stuff? Her battle with Alzheimer's disease is also mentioned but it could easily have gone further into how this crept into her life and go deeper in exploring the response to her gradually forgetting such outrageous experiences.
Dahlin! is a touching tribute to Jeanne Little and something her fans would no doubt enjoy. For those who might not have grown up with her on their televisions however, you do question what makes this person so unique and worth getting invested in. Some editing in the story would allow this production to shine as strongly as Little does.
Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: until 6 February | 29-30 Jan, 1 Feb, 7pm, 3, 5, 6 Feb, 8.30pm, 8 Feb, 7pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $31 Conc
Bookings: Midsumma Festival