Anything Goes: Karen Akers Sings Cole Porter – A cabaret of songs with music & lyrics by Porter
Karen Akers (singer) & Leigh Thompson (pianist)
Reviewed by: Tom Vallance
Reviewed: 30 October, 2012
Venue: The Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zédel, Piccadilly Circus, London
Karen Akers is back in London, this time at The Crazy Coqs. What better composer to celebrate in this stylishly elegant Art Deco room than Cole Porter, a master of sophistication, wit and unbridled passion, reflecting the giddy 1920s and 1930s with insouciant rhymes and winning love songs. Akers clearly loves this material, particularly the ‘catalogue’ numbers. For ‘Let’s do it’ she even sings the lyrics that Noël Coward wrote in the 1940s and incorporated into his triumphant cabaret act in Las Vegas. He proves Porter’s equal at providing the requisite wit and audacity.
It’s good to report that one hears every word that is sung – Akers’s enunciation is faultless, and allows one to savour the brilliance of Porter’s rhymes. Her chat between songs is fairly spare, but enough to establish a warm rapport with the audience. She opens with ‘I’m throwing a ball tonight’, an appeal to join in the fun and introduced by Ethel Merman in the show Panama Hattie. She then surprises with ‘Don’t fence me in’, originally introduced by cowboy Roy Rogers (his horse was called Trigger), and considered corny by some, but from Akers it becomes a yearning for open spaces.
It’s always good to hear a few Porter rarities. Akers does not disappoint – the torchy ‘Where have you been?’ from The New Yorkers, is an atypical gem – and she includes some of the classics, notably a languid ‘Begin the beguine’, and the seductive ‘I get a kick out of you’. A highlight is Akers’s take on ‘It’s all right with me’, sung to a beautiful rippling arrangement played by Leigh Thompson, who accompanies her flawlessly.
Akers has great affection for Paris, a love shared with Porter. She has skilfully arranged a medley of three songs, their verses and refrains sometimes split, to form ‘Paris Suite’. It includes ‘I love Paris’, the rueful ‘You don’t know Paree’ and a truly exquisite rendition, in French, of ‘Allez-vous-en’, from the underrated score of Can-Can. As an encore this night was a Porter song perhaps less than celebrated, the paean to positive thinking, ‘Experiment‘ – “If this advice you always employ, the future can offer you infinite joy…” There is joy, with an occasional dash of sentiment, in Karen Akers’s splendid performance.
- Anything Goes is at The Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Piccadilly Circus, London W1 until Saturday 3 November 2012, nightly at 8.30
- Bookings 020 7734 4888