Talk-show queen becomes cabaret goddess

By Kate Boston Smith

Rachel Dunham is a power-house of the Melbourne musical theatre scene and her show Oprahfication, written and composed with the incredible Shanon Whitelock and directed by Dirk Hoult, showcases the extent of her unbridled talent.


From the moment she takes the stage, accompanied by Whitelock on keys and a full band, Dunham has the audience in the palm of her hand.  The atmosphere was electric and charged by Dunham’s impeccable transformation into America’s leading lady of the small screen, Oprah Winfrey.  Dunham has Oprah’s mannerisms, quips and throwaway lines down pat and utilizes all possible impro moments with the audience without missing a beat.

The story plays out like biography, so even the few who do not know much about America’s first black billionaire will leave with a firm understanding of how and why people adore this remarkable talk-show host.  Touching on her relationship with her best friend Gale, her love for life partner Stedman and of course her ever-expanding and contracting waistline, Whitelock and Dunham have created a show with monumental LOLs and genuine heart-felt moments.

Having not had the pleasure of being in a recording studio audience with the tv queen herself, Oprahfication is the perfect artificial simulation. Complete with faceless producer bringing us in and out of ad breaks we see change from on-camera Oprah to off-camera Oprah, and we are shown the vulnerability beneath her all-conquering façade.

The show is all original music that evokes the drama, passion and hype one would associate with Oprah herself.  Dunham heads fearlessly into the aisles clapping and singing, with her adoring audience joining in when ever possible.  A truly spectacular moment was during the huge closing number where, in a music break, the audience took over the show chanting in full voice “Oprah! Oprah! Oprah!”.  It took several moments before Dunham could take back the stage and close the show with one of the greatest numbers you could hope to hear in a cabaret show like this.

Oprahfication is amazing: it left this reviewer literally weak at the knees. Get to this show as soon as you can.

This season of Oprahfication took place on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 June
 at 7pm for the Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2013