P.S We’re Back
A cabaret compiled by Barry J. Mishon of songs by Jimmy Van Heusen & Sammy Cahn, Al Freeman, Eubie Blake & Noble Sissel, George & Ira Gershwin, Arthur Schwartz & Howard Dietz, Eric Maschwitz & George Posford, Joseph Meyer, Douglas Furber & Philip Chang, Jerome Kern, Murray Grand, Irving Berlin, Noël Coward, Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II, Leslie Bricusse, Michael McWhinney, Michael Cohen & Tony Walsh, and Jule Styne & Bob Hilliard
Steve Ross – Singer & Pianist
Patricia Hodge – Singer
Reviewed by: Michael Darvell
Reviewed: 23 November, 2009
Venue: Pizza on the Park, Knightsbridge, London SW1
The Great American Songbook is alive and well and residing this week at Pizza on the Park in London’s Knightsbridge where Steve Ross, doyen of supper-club singer-pianists, and actress and singer Patricia Hodge are recalling some of the great American songs along with the best of British. Both performers have voices that remind us of an earlier era, the 1930s and 1940s , when Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers, Jack Buchanan & Elsie Carlisle, Noël Coward & Gertrude Lawrence and Ivor Novello & Judy Campbell were treading the boards and making the movies. It was a time when the popular songs of the day came from the musical-comedy shows on Broadway and in London’s West End. George & Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein, and Irving Berlin and Cole Porter were writing the hit songs in the US while Noël Coward, Eric Maschwitz, Vivien Ellis and Ivor Novello were doing the same in the UK.
In their new show Steve and Patricia unearth the best of the material from this era and it proves to be a rich seam they are mining. There’s a vague theme of travel about the show but it’s not set in stone. It begins with a rather more up-to-date song, ‘You’re so London’ that Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett used in their famous 1962 Carnegie Hall concert, the lyrics of which hilariously contrast the brashness of the American Burnett with the oh-so English Rose qualities of Andrews. This segues into ‘(The Lady’s a) Star!’ from “Star!”, Robert Wise’s biopic with Julie Andrews playing Gertrude Lawrence. The period is then set for Joseph Meyer’s ‘Fancy Our Meeting’, which veteran song and dance man Jack Buchanan popularised in Britain. To follow are songs by the Gershwins, Jerome Kern and Eubie Bake, interspersed with ones by Coward, Maschwitz and Novello. This last was not only prolific at writing romantic numbers, but he could also turn out a fine comic song such as ‘And Her Mother Came Too’ which Steve essays with his usual aplomb. Maschwitz wrote such iconic numbers as ‘Goodnight Vienna’ and ‘Room 504’ which are performed here with the utmost gentility and respect for both the words and the music.
Noël Coward could be both raucous and genteel and here we get ‘A Room with a View’, ‘Something Very Strange’ (from “Sail Away”) and ‘If Love Were All’, Coward’s favourite of his own songs, plus the full lyrics of ‘Mad About the Boy’, the last verse of which was originally censored on account of an alleged lapse of taste, as it is sung by a married man. Schwartz & Dietz could also do sad torch-songs as well as upbeat numbers, but here it’s all contemplation in ‘By Myself’, ‘Alone Together’ and ‘I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan’. Three songs from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I” (with its Gertrude Lawrence connections) and a medley of songs bringing us back to London and New York, the respective homes of Patricia and Steve, complete a packed programme, impeccably performed.
Patricia Hodge is very good at comic songs such the one in which she admits to being “terribly good at imitating sheep” and ‘Das Chicago Song’, Cohen & Walsh’s brilliant pastiche of Kurt Weill and “The Threepenny Opera”, sung with Dietrich-Minnelli type actions. For a finale there’s a quick skip through two dozen or so songs illustrating the history of the twentieth-century musical, from Otto Harbach’s ‘Every Little Movement’ to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Love Changes Everything’.Great show, great songs, great entertainment. Let’s hope that London can carry on supporting this civilised style of cabaret when it is performed by two immaculate artists such as Steve Ross and Patricia Hodge. Don’t miss this toothsome treat of a show.
- P.S. We’re Back is at Pizza on the Park, 11 Knightsbridge, London SW1 until Sunday 29 November 2009: doors open 7 p.m., show from 8.30 p.m.
- Reservations on 08456 027 017