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Lorna Dallas – Spring Collection
Live at Zedel/Crazy Coqs, London
May 20-22 2018
Reviewed by Jarlath O'Connell
An Illinois native, Lorna Dallas, first came to our attention in the UK when she came over to play Magnolia in a landmark production of Showboat, starring Cleo Laine. She didn't go back and has been delighting audiences in musical theatre and concerts ever since with the odd trip back to New York to perform in such hallowed quarters as the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel.
Her forte is soprano roles and for a mature singer she has certainly looked after that voice. She can still hit the high notes in, for example, a lushly romantic Ivor Novello number, in a way that few of her contemporaries would even dare attempt.
What also characterises her is her utter passion for unearthing material from the early years of musical theatre. This is the period just after it had morphed from Viennese operetta and singers needed trained voices to even get to first base. Many of such standards are now sung in a more vernacular style but it is always intriguing to go back to the source and hear original treatments.
Spring was the theme of this collection and it was certainly bustin' out all over from 'Spring, Spring, Spring' a song from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which owes a lot to 'Oh What a Beautiful Mornin' to Michel Legrand's 'You Must Believe in Spring' to Comden and Green's 'Spring Will Come Again'. She also unearthed rarities like 'Spring is a New Beginning' from a flop musical version of The Yearling.
In an incredibly polished show under the musical direction of Christopher Denny she demonstrated her versatility whether in comic numbers such as in Ivor Novello's 'Nuts in May', which is, well, nuts or her more sultry side with a crystalline interpretation of Jerome Moross/John Latouche's wonderful 'Lazy Afternoon'. That hails from a now forgotten show The Golden Apple and as she said is possibly the sultriest song ever written in musical theatre. It's been covered by many of the greats, including Streisand.
A great Anglophile, Novello is a particular favourite hers and she gave us four of his songs letting her voice take flight in 'Waltz of My Heart'. She also recounted stories about her soulmate, the late Elizabeth Welch, a mixed race American émigré who became a big star in West End in the 1930s under the guidance of Novello and who like herself made a home here.
Singing a mostly soprano repertoire in an intimate room is not an easy task but with sensitive handling and expert arrangements by Christopher Denny and Barry Kleinbort she pulls it off. This was a night for the connoisseur and nothing wrong with that.