You and the Night and the Music
An Evening of Musical Imports and Exports with music & lyrics by Arthur Schwartz, Howard Dietz, Joan Whitney, Alex Kramer, Cole Porter, John Tucker, Hubert Giraud, Jean Drejac, Fred E. Alhert, Roy Turk, Lothar Metzl, Franz Lehár, Victor Leon, Leo Stein, Sheldon Harnick, Noël Coward, Addy Fieger, Francesca Blumenthal, John Denver, Carol King, Frank Churchill, Larry Morey, Frank Loesser, Ira & George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart, Richard Stilgoe, Meredith Willson, Leonard Bernstein, Richard Wilbur, Adam Guettel, Maury Yeston, Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Giacosa, and Luigi Illica
Anna Bergman (singer) & Nathan Martin (pianist)
Jeff Harner – Director
Reviewed by: Tom Vallance
Reviewed: 6 March, 2013
Venue: The Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zédel, Piccadilly Circus, London
Anna Bergman possesses a voice of uncommon flexibility, and her act is one of splendid unpredictability as she ranges through the world of opera, cabaret and musical comedy. The daughter of a diplomat, she had a privileged youth – her father’s profession meant “lots of parties and great parking”. Born in Paris and raised in several European cities, she inherited a passion for travel (not surprisingly, her version of John Denver’s ‘Leaving on a jet plane’ has great feeling) and a love of music. ‘Far away places’ (which sounds more wistful than ever when sung in French) heralds an evening of Broadway ballads and songs evoking her favourite cities, Paris, Vienna and London.
Her appearance combines Renée Fleming and the late-lamented Madeleine Kahn; she shares with that lady a mischievous sense of humour, a flirtation with the risqué and a soaring vocal talent. Bergman’s lyric-soprano is perfect for operetta with beautiful renditions of Lehár’s ‘Vilja-Lied’ (The Merry Widow) and two Noël Coward numbers, ‘I’ll follow my secret heart’ and ‘Some day I’ll find you’. How good to hear the virtuoso number ‘Glitter and be gay’ from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide with its audacious trilling and wicked humour conveyed with a persuasion rarely encountered since the aria was introduced by Barbara Cook over fifty years ago.
The influence of great divas is apparent in Bergman’s act, with tributes to Edith Piaf, Maria Callas and Marlene Dietrich. Bergman first heard Dietrich on one of her parents’ records, and she sings in German a gorgeous version of ‘Mean to me’. Cole Porter figures strongly in the Broadway segments, notably ‘I am in love’ and ‘I love Paris’, both from Can-Can, and the lilting waltz ‘Where, oh where?’. The last is part of an exhilarating ‘Prince of my Dreams’ medley, a grand compilation of idealised romance starting with the tune Frank Churchill and Larry Morey wrote for Disney’s Snow White, ‘Someday my prince will come’, and including Frank Loesser’s ‘I’ll know’ (in an exciting beguine arrangement), the Gershwins’ ‘Do, do, do’, Irving Berlin’s ‘Old-fashioned wedding’ and Meredith Willson’s ‘My white knight’.
Bergman’s admission that finding a man has not been easy and that she is sick of singles bars, cues a comedy highlight, ‘Museum’, Addy Fieger and Francesca Blumenthal’s amusing song about the revelation that you meet a nicer sort of person in art galleries (while looking at a Goya, she gets to know a lawyer). Bergman’s accompanist, the highly talented Nathan Martin, has some amusing vocal interjections during this number – earlier, he gives an eloquent account of an Erik Satie Gymnopédie as an introduction to Piaf’s ‘Sous le ciel de Paris’. Martin also provides a passionate backing for Bergman’s dramatic rendition of Adam Guettel’s ‘Fable’, the mother’s climactic aria in Light in the Piazza. I was dismayed when Bergman announced that her encore would be “a song from the original score of Rent”, but she was referring to ‘Musetta’s waltz, Quando me’n vo’ from Puccini’s La bohème, on which Rent is based. She warbled this enduring creation wandering through the audience café-style.
- Anna Bergman is at The Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Piccadilly Circus, London W1 until Saturday 9 March 2013
- Bookings 020 7734 4888