A cabaret of classic songs by Cy Coleman, Joseph Allan McCarthy, Carolyn Leigh, Bob Haymes, Marty Clark, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II, Ronny Whyte, Francesca Blumenthal, Billy Verplanck, Leon Nock, Jack Segal, Robert Wells, Bernice Petkere, Edward C. Redding, Harry Warren, Mack Gordon, Richard Rodgers, and Lorenz Hart
Marlene Verplanck (singer) with John Pearce (piano) & Paul Morgan (bass)
Reviewed by: Tom Vallance
Reviewed: 18 March, 2014
Venue: The Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel, Piccadilly Circus, London
Though this is the first appearance by Marlene Verplanck at The Crazy Coqs, she is no stranger to London. Her superb jazz styling of material, always first-class and occasionally offbeat, recalls Blossom Dearie or Peggy Lee, though she has a distinctive approach with some effective gliding octaves plus crystal-clear delivery doing justice to the lyrics. Her current programme includes three numbers each from Irving Berlin and Cy Coleman, with Berlin’s lovely ballad ‘I got lost in his arms’ given its movingly emotional weight, and a number from Call Me Madam, ‘The best thing for you’, prompting a deliciously swinging arrangement. The Coleman selections include two hit-parade numbers that he wrote with Carolyn Leigh, ‘Witchcraft’ and ‘Rules of the road’, plus the rarer ‘Why try to change me now?’. If one could change anything in the show, it would be nothing musical, but a little more engagement with the audience would be welcome (I’d love to hear some stories about Verplanck’s earlier years).
Like many of the best vocalists, Verplanck served a spell as a dance-band singer, performing with Charlie Spivak and Tex Beneke, and she was singing with the Dorsey bands when she married trombonist-composer-arranger Billy Verplanck. Sadly, he died five years ago (after a marriage that lasted 52 years), but Marlene still includes his work, including the engaging ‘What are we going to do with all this moonlight?’. Other less-familiar titles include Jack Segal and Robert Wells’s seductive ‘What are you afraid of?’ (“Now the gang is gone, put Sinatra on…”) and Segal and Marvin Fisher’s sad tale of denial, ‘I keep going back to Joe’s’ (“Our old waiter knows we’re through, still he sets a place for you”).
Edward C. Redding’s ‘The end of a love affair’ is another effective declaration of love lost, and Rodgers & Hart’s masterly ‘Falling in love with love’ is beautifully done. Another gem is Ronny Whyte’s ‘Listen to the piano man’, an exhortation that one can take literally. Verplanck is noted for the calibre of her accompanying musicians. John Pearce is one of the finest of pianists and his solo breaks are a joy, while Paul Morgan is equally accomplished. Together with Verplanck they provide an evening of perfect harmony.
- Marlene Verplanck is at The Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Piccadilly Circus, London W1 until Saturday 22 March 2014
- Bookings 020 7734 4888