From Classic… to Current: Sophie-Louise Dann at The Crazy Coqs

From Classic… to Current
A cabaret of songs with music & lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Jay Livingston, Ray Evans, Cole Porter, Jason Carr, Kurt Weill, Ogden Nash, Noël Coward, Stephen Sondheim, Mary Rodgers, Eric Maschwitz, Manning Sherwin, Peter Sham, Brad Carroll, Michael Head, Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, R.F. Weston, Bert Lee, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer, Helen Goldwyn, Tim Sutton, Robert Wright, George Forrest, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Ivor Novello, Alan Melville, Harold Arlen, E. Y. Harburg, Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane, James F. Hanley, Richard Rodgers, and Lorenz Hart

Sophie-Louise Dann (singer) & James Church (pianist)

Reviewed by: Tom Vallance

Reviewed: 30 July, 2013
Venue: The Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zédel, Piccadilly Circus, London

Sophie-Louise DannSophie-Louise Dann is admired for her appearances in musical comedy, concerts and cabarets. Recently she starred in a revival of Gay’s the Word. Even those who remember Cicely Courtneidge in the role found Dann her equal in verve and comic timing, and even better in song, for Dann has a belting soprano that reaches the rafters. One of the selections in her well-chosen Crazy Coqs repertoire is from that show, the Ivor Novello-Alan Melville number ‘It’s bound to be right on the night‘, a fine song of desperate optimism blended with sad resignation, given its due in Dann’s perfectly acted and finely sung interpretation. Her skills are also evident in Cole Porter’s ‘The tale of an oyster’, a particular favourite of cabaret performers and close to wearing out its welcome, but Dann’s skilfully enacted treatment reveals why it is a comedy classic (it was written for the masterly Bert Lahr) and makes it seem fresh.

Humour is very much to the fore in Dann’s collection. She brings down the house showcasing her ability to handle swiftly flowing medleys and vocal pyrotechnics. The first is ‘May I have a moment?’, the brilliant number that was written for her to sing in the undeservedly short-lived Lend Me a Tenor, in which she hilariously runs through a collection of opera snippets featuring the great heroines of the genre, including a tipsy Violetta swigging wine from a bottle. Helen Goldwyn’s ‘World’s biggest fan’ is similarly uproarious about the world’s most-fervent musical-theatre buff with the ambition to sing every show-tune: Dann warbles a breathtaking assortment of over forty extracts expertly welded into one dazzling showstopper. Other comedic gems with which Dann delights are:

  • Stephen Schwartz’s ‘It’s an art’, the lament of a hopelessly inadequate waitress;
  • the irresistible Kander & Ebb number about finding love on your doorstep, ‘Ring them bells’;
  • Jason Carr’s ‘Three whole days’;
  • Stephen Sondheim’s delicious parody, ‘The boy from…’;
  • and an old music hall number, ‘The gypsy warned me’, introduced by Violet Lorraine in 1920 and given extra punch here by some rapid lighting effects skilfully produced by Justin Smith.

    With James Church providing splendid accompaniment, Dann’s powerful voice is perfect for such dramatic numbers as ‘Back to before’ from Ragtime, but such intimate ballads as ’If love were all’ and ‘A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square’ lack introspective delicacy – giving the second chorus of the latter a raunchy, up-tempo arrangement is a mistake. But in most cases, the songs benefit from Dann’s impressive range and lyrical expression. These include some little-known material such as Sondheim’s ‘The girls of summer’, Noël Coward’s ‘Why does love get in the way?’, and an intriguing rarity, ‘Food for thought’, from a 1948 show, Magdalena, with a score confected by lyricists Robert Wright & George Forrest from the music of Heitor Villa-Lobos (five years later they were to have greater success plundering Borodin for Kismet). With a comic classic, Rodgers and Hart’s ‘To keep my love alive’, a dazzling masterwork, Dann concludes an immensely pleasing performance.

    • Sophie-Louise Dann is at The Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Piccadilly Circus, London W1 until Saturday 3 August 2013
    • Bookings 020 7734 4888

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