John Burns: Don’t Call Me Shirley

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John Burns

Don’t Call Me Shirley: John Burns Sings Shirley Bassey

The Duplex, NYC, April 20, 2018

Reviewed by Chris Struck for Cabaret Scenes

John Burns

At first glance John Burns may not have a lot in common with Shirley Bassey. However, he had more than enough Diva to pick up on what made Bassey special.
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Combining the story of her life with lessons in star power, Burns found where Bassey went right as a performer and deciphered how to apply those things to his own life. Through Diva Lesson 1 to 10, he walked us through how it’s done and sang Bassey’s best along the way.

Some of the Diva Lessons may be more applicable than others, but they were all funny, starting with Lesson 1: Find yourself an “Enterprising Impresario.” Regrettably for Burns, he isn’t as young as Bassey was when a young impresario whisked her into the limelight. However, that doesn’t stop him from singing “Get the Party Started” (Linda Perry) and donning a blue jumpsuit with silver glitter dashed across it in flashy lines. Of course, this related to Diva Lesson 2: Get a Look.

As the night went on and the Diva Lessons continued, Burns’ momentum soared, backed by music director/pianist extraordinaire William Demaniow and percussionist Zachary Eldridge. As Burns discussed Bassey’s 1987 Berlin performance that inspired the evening’s show, Demaniow nodded silent approval and flashed sly grins at the audience upon mention of his involvement in Burns’ new star crush. And when Burns reenacted Bassey’s sideways strut to the microphone, grabbed a feather boa and slammed it onto the piano while crying out “I (Who have Nothing)” (Carlo Donida/Mogol/Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller), he had us enthralled by more than his strong vocals. A touch of diva, indeed.

Of course, the evening wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Bassey’s James Bond movie themes, having  done more Bond songs than any other singer. Diva Lesson 8 – “Yes to the Bond Songs.” Burns absolutely astonished with his “Diamonds Are Forever” (John Barry and Don Black), which is one of my personal favorite songs, and then followed that up with a strong “Goldfinger.” Beware: he may have Midas lungs. I hope he does this show again.
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Chris Struck

Chris Struck's debut novel, Kennig and Gold, is due to be officially published in June 2019. He's written reviews for Cabaret Scenes since August of 2017. For more information about the writer, see