Rhonda Burchmore has many magical moments to recollect; movies, musicals, theatre and TV. But proudest of them all is being awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in this year’s Australia Day Honours List.[row cols_nr=”2″] [col size=”6″]
“It was unbelievable,” Rhonda enthuses. “I’d been away in Europe and was going through the mail when this one envelope stood out and I thought ‘this looks quite official – it has the Coat of Arms on it! “It was telling me I’d received the Order of Australia and I kind of cried. “I’m fifth generation Australian and I was moved more so because I wished my Dad and Mum could be a part of it. “I owe so much to their nurturing and what they did for me as a kid. “Mum used to make all the cossies, take me to lessons. “And, I also thought about the continued support of my husband and daughter, without which none of this would have been a possibility.
“On the day, there were a few hundred getting awards but only a few in the Arts. Most were scientists or from the military. “It felt extraordinary to be in the same room as them,” she recalls.
[/col] [/row] After nearly 30 years wowing audiences, it is no surprise Rhonda was recognized so publicly for her extraordinary talents.
Seeing her on stage, she is completely in her element. Famous for her striking smile and stunning pins, she can belt out up-beat and brassy numbers and enchant with sultry songs. She commands attention on her own, but when she performs with a troupe, cabaret style, the energy is lifted further.
“Totally embraceable … larger than life,” The Sydney Morning Herald quotes.
“Rhonda Burchmore took the stage with more sparkles than a galaxy spilling over with stars ……her numbers were explosively delivered,” says the Courier Mail.
Rhonda’s love of the stage was first borne while watching her sister’s dance classes as a three-year-old. Quick to see her talent, her parents proudly supported her dreams and like many in showbiz, her stage career started in the lounge room entertaining family and friends with her dolls as co-stars. As her talent grew she took on roles in high school productions and on leaving school was awarded a scholarship to the University of New England where she majored in Theatre Arts. Her big break came starring as Kate in the 1982 film The Pirate Movie. Later, she appeared opposite Garry McDonald in Sugar Babies and with Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller in London’s West End, turning her from a ‘maybe’ to a show-stopping sensation. She shone in David Atkin’s Hot Show Shuffle, which was written especially for her and in cabaret extravaganzas including Red Hot and Rhonda, Guys and Dolls, Mamma Mia, Rhonda Burchmore Sings n Swings, My Funny Valentine, Fame, Vinyl Viagra and Up Close and Personal. Many will remember her humorous appearances on long-time Aussie variety show Hey, Hey its Saturday. She’s also released many albums and even penned the autobiography Legs 11 which has been turned into a live production.
It’s easy to see why she’s hailed as one of the Australia’s most iconic triple-threats but there is a lot more to this striking star.
The Order of Australia also recognises Rhonda’s service to the community, in reference to her charitable work. Within her hectic schedule, she always makes time be available for events which raise funds for good causes, including Very Special Kids, a not-for-profit organisation which provides counselling and support services to families caring for a child diagnosed with a life-threatening condition, the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, and Can Assist, an organisation which provides accommodation, financial assistance and practical support for country families struggling with the challenges of a cancer diagnosis and distance.
“Recently I travelled to Taree where they had an amazing black tie event and I did a bit of singing and MC work. “They raised an amazing amount of money and I love going to those events when I can do something to help. “It’s nice to get a response for what you do.”
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Her natural charm means she can mix easily with people from the President of the United States Bill Clinton and Princess Dianna, through to the leading many and the person minding the stage door. It’s this ability she believes has helped her stay 30 years in the business.
“I see these newcomers to the business and you know straight away they won’t last,” Rhonda says. “They are too caught up in themselves. “I love going to a show and doing a meet and greet. “It’s great fun and I have met some wonderful people. “I was on a cruise recently, which was quite small, and made some great friendships. “I was thrilled when they travelled to see me perform at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.”
There is no denying that Rhonda Burchmore can do glitz and glamour better than most. But, she is quick to confess,” that’s all part of the job. “I like nothing more than relaxing in my favourite pair of jeans. “It’s when I’m most comfortable.”
She also divulges she has a passion for cooking and gardening in her Melbourne home and is totally besotted by her two standard poodles Zoro and Lulu. She describes them as “they have hearts of gold, are incredibly intelligent, don’t shed hair and have long legs, which is a good thing since I’m 182cm tall”. She’s particularly proud of her 19-year-old daughter Lexie who is studying journalism.
“We love spending time together and are the best of friends
Coming up in Rhonda’s intensely busy schedule are a series of performances throughout regional Australia.
“Most of the venues where I usually perform are centred around major cities, but during the past year I have had the opportunity to perform in regional areas of Victoria and New South Wales and Queensland.
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“Many people in these towns have never had the chance to see me perform, so it’s great to take the songs from the big theatre shows and cabaret in the city to the people of the country,” she says.
“And some of the finest grand pianos are found in the most remote places where they have been beautifully preserved!”
Her regional tour will continue throughout August, September and October and take her to Ballarat, Toowoomba , Noosa and Cairns and everywhere in-between. Among all that she will be performing on cruise ships and at gala events. “I really do love going to places where there are people who wouldn’t normally get the chance to see me,” Rhonda says.
In November, Rhonda will return to the big stage to star alongside Simon Burke, Todd McKenney and Marge Downey in the Tony Award Winning Broadway Production of La Cage Aux Folles. The season opens at the Playhouse in Melbourne Arts Cenre.
For information on Rhonda’s upcoming schedule, go to rhondaburchmore.com