In a New Key
A cabaret of songs by Al Hoffman, Al Goodhart, Stephen Sondheim, Don McLean, Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, Richard Lewine, Arnold Horwitt, Cole Porter, Myles Rudge, Charles Zwar, Richard Rodney Bennett, Jerry Herman, Hugh Martin, Ralph Martin, Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh, Amanda McBroom, Billy Joel, Diana Morgan, Geoffrey Wright, Roger McDermott, Carroll Coates, Peter Nero, Marvin Hamlisch, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Michael Leonard, Russell George, Harold Arlen, E. Y. Harburg, and Frank Loesser
Anne Reid (singer) & Stuart Hutchinson (piano)
Reviewed by: Tom Vallance
Reviewed: 21 May, 2013
Venue: The Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zédel, Piccadilly Circus, London
Six months ago Anne Reid decided to realise a lifelong ambition – to perform a cabaret. It was not a decision taken lightly for, however accomplished an actor or actress, to hold the stage for over an hour as a singer and raconteur takes a special skill – think of how many fine players cannot make an award-acceptance speech without embarrassing results. Reid not only brought it off, she triumphed. She has now brought her performance to the elegant Crazy Coqs room.
Few changes have been made to her original programme, with just a few numbers replaced, and some fresh anecdotes with which she convulses us through immaculate timing. Much of her patter is disarmingly self-deprecating, including stories of her unsuitable stature for her initial career choice of ballet, and her hilarious appearance at Buckingham Palace for a Jubilee gala, playing the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet before the Queen. Halfway through her scene, she spotted Her Majesty staring fixedly at her, which totally blew her concentration.
Anne Reid is an immensely versatile actress, her career ranging from Coronation Street, in which as Ken Barlow’s first wife her character’s demise (electrocuted by a hair dryer) made newspaper headlines, to further television as diverse as The Benny Hill Show, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Doctor Who, and her recently lauded role in Last Tango in Halifax. In the theatre, she appeared in Hedda Gabler, and won accolades in the film The Mother: “I still can’t believe I went to bed with Daniel Craig”, she says of her role as a woman who sleeps with her daughter’s lover. Barbara Cook, David Tennant, Ian Carmichael, Dora Bryan and Thora Hird are among those who feature in her rich fund of stories.
Reid’s choice of musical material is impeccable and her voice is sweet, true and melodic, with due attention to the lyrics, whether they have the poignancy of such rueful ballads as Michael Leonard and Russell George’s ‘Not really Paris’ and Amanda McBroom’s modern classic, ‘Errol Flynn’, or the sharp wit and sophistication of some songs Reid has rescued from the days of intimate revue. These include the droll saga of an unusual love affair, ‘Robby the robot’, introduced by Hermione Gingold in Sticks and Stones (1956), the sunny paean to anticipatory romance, Richard Lewine and Arnold Horwitt’s ‘Gentleman friend’, and the gentle lilt of the neglected ‘Transatlantic lullaby’, composed in 1938 by Diana Morgan, Geoffrey Wright and Robert McDermott for the hit London show, The Gate Revue.
Reid’s attraction to the neglected includes probably the least-performed of all the great songs from Guys and Dolls, the touching ‘More I cannot wish you’. Five lesser-known songs by Stephen Sondheim include the catchy ‘Sand’, about the quixotic nature of love (“Love is like sand, you can hear it drifting, soon as you stand, you begin to sink”). It was composed for a film written by William Goldman, titled Singing Out Loud, which was never made. Two of the other Sondheim ditties were written for a never produced stage musical, The Last Resorts.
Near the end of her show, Reid delivers the joyous Harold Arlen-E. Y. Harburg declaration, ‘I love to singa’, a succinct summation of Reid’s credo. It’s obvious she loves every minute that she shares with us. Anne Reid’s only regret is that she did not do cabaret years ago. That she is now, with such captivating results, is cause to rejoice.
- Anne Reid is at The Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Piccadilly Circus, London W1 until Saturday 25 May 2013
- Bookings 020 7734 4888