SUZANNE Prentice is Southland music royalty and this month she received one of New Zealand’s highest entertainment honours, the Variety Artists Club Benny Award for lifetime excellence in performing arts.
Prentice was presented with the award by New Zealand entertainer, singer and writer Max Cryer, during a black-tie event at the Crowne Plaza in Auckland earlier this month.
Prentice was “surprised” to hear she had been awarded the Benny, but said she was honoured by it.
Music and performance have been her life since she first hit the stage in Invercargill as a 12 year old, singing to a crowd of country music fans and bringing down the house with her rendition of I’m little but I’m loud – a wonderful mantra for the pint-sized star.
Well-known for developing rapport with her audience and with a voice described as “famously mellow, yet capable of rare power”, Prentice has recorded numerous albums and received some of the music industry’s highest recognition.
In the 1995 Queen’s Birthday Honours she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to music.
The Benny is the highest honour bestowed by the Variety Artists Club, and Prentice shares the spotlight with previous recipients who include Kiwi entertainment greats such as Sir Howard Morrison, Dame Malvina Major, Rob Guest, Max Cryer, Gray Bartlett, Ray Columbus, Billy T. James and Larry Morris.
The Benny Award is named after legendary New Zealand variety performer Edgar Benyon (1902-1978), who toured the world with magic, ventriloquism, contortions and impressions.
The original Benny trophy was sculpted by Grand Master of Magic Jon Zealando and first awarded in 1969.