The tale of tramps like us

Born To Run (Michelle Nightingale)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre

June 13


From the moment “Born to Run” begins with its titular tune, it is clear that audience members are set to experience a musical journey. What isn’t initially clear, however, is the road that the journey will take. For although the song speaks of sweating it out on the streets of a runaway American dream, in Michelle Nightingale’s one-woman cabaret show, the Boss’ iconic songs are transported to a place uncomfortably closer to home.

“This is not my story”, Nightingale says within the opening number, “but it is a story to be shared”. Using the songs’ emotionally-compelling lyrics, the show presents the narrative of its own broken hero in the form of an Australian single mother of yesteryear forced to give up a child for adoption(ain’t no mercy on the streets of this town). It is a sombre subject matter choice, but it is one that fits the song pallet perfectly. (Although to hear iconic lines such as ‘you can’t start a fire without a spark, from ‘Dancing in the Dark’, delivered with Australian pronunciation is jarring). Initially, the story is a difficult one to follow, however, with the help of verbatim quotes from women affected at the time, as bridge to the musical numbers of frustration and longing, it is easy to appreciate the universality of the underlying desperation within the troubled themes being explored. After all, everybody’s got a hungry heart and wants a little of that human touch

Despite its dark subject matter, “Born to Run” is an entertaining cabaret show, not just as vehicle for Nightingale’s vocal skill but as showcase for the resonance and endurance of the broodingly contemplative early Springsteen catalogue of songs. Nightingale is committed in her characterisation as she enlivens a variety of personas, from sweet, to sultry, to settled. And her powerful voice both belts and lingers in its delivery of Springsteen’s songs, including a perfectly placed ‘Thunder Road; duet and a resounding rendition of ‘Rosalita’. Even as someone on the fringe of Springsteen fandom, I was toe tapping in complement and resisting urge to sing along because tramps like us, baby we were born to run whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh.

Photo c/o –


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