No No, Cosette!
Music & lyrics by Tom Lehrer, Jacques Offenbach, Jerome Kern, Otto Harbach, Eric Idle, Marcel Proust, Jerry Herman, Marc Blitzstein, Mark-Antony Turnage, David Zippel, Wally Harper, Maury Yeston, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, Frank Loesser, Vernon Duke, Ira Gershwin, and Noël Coward
Rebecca Caine (singer) & Nathan Martin (pianist)
Reviewed by: Tom Vallance
Reviewed: 13 October, 2012
Venue: The Pheasantry, King’s Road, London SW3
The word ‘eclectic’ has become overused, but the cabaret act presented by the engaging duo Rebecca Caine and Nathan Martin is certainly that. Where else would you hear Tom Lehrer and Offenbach, Jerome Kern and Eric Idle, Proust and Jerry Herman, not to mention Marc Blitzstein and Mark-Anthony Turnage? Caine was the original Cosette in Les Misérables, and the programme’s title informs that few roles are written today for coloratura sopranos – ironically, Cosette has lost her big number in the shortening of Les Misérables for Broadway. No, No Cosette could also refer to Cameron Mackintosh ignoring Caine’s request that she play a token role in the film version of ‘Les Mis, as some other former cast members have done.
The time when virtually every musical had a juvenile with a sweetly soaring voice has gone. Caine gives a heartfelt rendering of ‘The ingénue’, the David Zippel-Wally Harper song originally written for Barbara Cook, which puts the singer’s lament into witty rhyme. The Phantom of the Opera figures in her show, although it is not the familiar hit musical but a lesser-known production with a score by Maury Yeston, from which Caine sings Carlotta’s ‘This place is mine’ – and a fine piece it is. She also displays her pleasing operetta talents in Offenbach’s La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein and performs a show-stopping aria of great passion (‘I saw him once’) from Mark-Anthony Turnage’s recent opera, Anna Nicole, based on the life of Anna Nicole Smith. “I can see from looking at you that you have all read Proust”, she says to the audience. This leads to a number from My Life with Albertine, an off-Broadway musical from 2003 that deals with Proust’s obsession with his red-haired mistress.
Lighter moments are provided by the frustrated soprano’s lament, ‘Whatever happened to my part?’ from Spamalot and Tom Lehrer’s outrageous ‘Masochistic tango’. The multi-talented Nathan Martin provided some vocal embellishment here, and had a solo vocal on Lehrer’s ‘I hold your hand in mine’. Caine does not entirely neglect the musical-comedy songbook and what she chooses is choice, with such lovely melodies as Kern and Harbach’s ‘The song is you’, Noël Coward’s ‘If love were all’, Frank Loesser’s ‘Somebody, somewhere’, and Cole Porter’s ‘So in love’, the last effectively melded with Sondheim’s ‘Losing my mind’ as a portrait of obsessive affection. Martin performs an eloquent piano solo during Caine’s rendition of the rarely heard ‘Words without music’, composed by Vernon Duke and Ira Gershwin for the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 and described by Alec Wilder as “a bit on the wild side but full of marvelous surprises.” Come to think of it, that’s a fair way to describe this enthralling evening.