An Evening with Lorna Luft
A cabaret with songs by Cole Porter, Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Jerry Herman, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields, Jerome Kern, Cy Coleman, Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Bronislaw Kaper, Gus Kahn, Walter Jurmann, George & Ira Gershwin, Nacio Herb Brown, Arthur Freed, Josef Myrow, Mack Gordon, Hugh Martin, Richard Whiting, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Harry Warren, Al Dubin, and Irving Berlin
Lorna Luft (singer) & Colin Freeman (piano)
Reviewed by: Tom Vallance
Reviewed: 29 January, 2013
Venue: The Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zédel, Piccadilly Circus, London
Lorna Luft is the youngest daughter of Judy Garland through her marriage to impresario Sid Luft (Garland’s eldest daughter Liza was with Vincente Minnelli). Lorna Luft has had success as a cabaret headliner and in stage musicals. Unlike Liza, she has inherited little of her mother’s mannerisms and vocal timbre, and it is only when belting powerful climactic notes (a shade too many) that one hears echoes of the later Garland, though Judy had less vibrato. When Lorna strays into her mother’s territory, with songs like ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas’, it is thankfully Luft that one hears and not imitation Garland – Luft has a fine voice, full-bodied, tuneful and strong, though I was happier with her quieter moments than the prevalent louder ones, when that vibrato gets in the way. Luft’s last appearance in London was with Barry Manilow at the O2, a far cry from the intimacy of The Crazy Coqs (“You’re so close”, she tells us) and a little modulation would be welcome.
Luft dedicates most of her act to favoured songwriters who in many cases have had an effect on her career, starting with Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who wrote the score for her first Broadway show, Promises, Promises. She is perhaps over generous with this partnership – seven songs – for although they wrote hits such as ‘Alfie’, ‘Walk on by’ and ‘What the world needs now’, cannot really be compared with Kern, Gershwin and Rodgers.
She does Jerry Herman proud, with sterling renditions ‘I don’t want to know’, the passionate plea (from Dear World) for the way things used to be, movingly delivered, and Luft’s favourite ‘Time heals everything’, powerfully defiant. After a touching account of the tortured life of Lorenz Hart, she sings two of Rodgers & Hart’s winners, the lovely ‘Where or when’ and ‘My funny Valentine’. She tells fascinating facts about the background of lyricist Dorothy Fields prior to demonstrating the lady’s genius with seven songs, three with music by Jimmy McHugh, two with Kern, and two with Cy Coleman. For ‘I can’t give you anything but love (baby)’, she employs the slower tempo (with verse) first adopted by her mother, and gives a persuasively romantic aura to ‘The way you look tonight’.
That song won an Oscar in 1937, and after two Jule Styne creations, ‘Time after time’ (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) and ‘Just in time’ (Betty Comden & Adolph Green), Luft raises the subject of the Oscars, and the recent controversy over the anomaly of films being nominated while their directors are overlooked. Luft then introduces a medley of timeless songs which were totally overlooked by the Academy, and not even nominated. “This is for Ben Affleck and the others”, before giving us reminders of great songs such as ‘A foggy day’, ‘Too marvellous for words’, ‘One for my baby’, ‘Let’s call the whole thing off’, and ‘Putting on the Ritz’.
The fact that there was an unwritten rule that only one song per film could be considered (thus a nomination for ‘The trolley song’ excluded ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas’) does not make the point of the medley any less valid, and Luft weaves the songs together with some special material. It provides what the trade paper Variety used to call “a socko finish” to Lorna Luft’s act that had the customers cheering with such gusto that they could probably be heard in Trafalgar Square.
- Lorna Luft is at The Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Piccadilly Circus, London W1 until Saturday 2 February 2013
- Bookings 020 7734 4888