Sign up to The American magazine's newsletters (below) to receive more regular news, articles and updates on America in the UK.
The 10th anniversary of jazz/cabaret club The Pheasantry on the Kings Rd in Chelsea got under way last night with a trio of performances which set a high bar for the week. Each night they have invited a dozen of their regulars back, three per night, for a week of celebrations.
The satirical trio Fascinating Aida, comprising Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson and Lisa Pullman, brought the house down with their usual brand of acerbic wit and musical merriment. You need to be a consummate musician to really nail an effective musical parody and Dillie Keane is one to her core. Last night, being a celebration, was all about crowd pleasers so they gave us their razor sharp cod Brecht/Weill German song 'Lieder', with Adele Anderson performing side splitting contortions on the back of a chair in the style of Fosse. Then two of their a capella gems: the mournful ode to Little Chef (motorway restaurant chain) in the style of a dreary Scottish ballad and their big YouTube hit ‘Cheap Flights’ a devilish demolition of the trials of flying Ryanair.
But the trio’s genius is in how they can deftly switch from gossamer fun to mining something more real. Dillie’s number about a mature woman bemoaning that her amour is a ‘teensy bit more married than he said’ is actually heartbreaking in its astuteness. Likewise their classic ‘My Shattered Illusions’ about how we transform ourselves to battle the ravages of age, reveals some great truths underneath the mordant quips. ‘Save Something for me’ is a paean to 60-somethings wishing their 80-something parents would stop with the world cruises and burning through their inheritance.
Fascinating Aida are at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London’s South Bank for an extended seasonal run from 10 December and are not to be missed.
They were preceded last night by two other artists who display the range of performers showcased at this venue. Jazz pianist and singer Dominic Alldis, like a British Steve Ross, opened the show with a smooth repertoire of Great American Songbook classics but also beautifully played tributes to three artists who passed on this year: Michel Legrand, Andre Previn and Jacques Loussier. The latter was the master of honey smooth jazz arrangements of Bach and of course that famous cigar advert. Alldis is continuing in that tradition with how own show of jazz arrangements of classical tunes. He ended with Dave Frishberg’s witty ‘Blizzard of Lies’ a tribute to his old friend Blossom Dearie.
We were also treated to great set by the supremely talented all-rounder Summer Strallen. She lifted the roof (because she can) with renditions of favourites by Porter, Herman and Sondheim but brought it right down with a deeply felt ‘Losing My Mind’. She also treated us to ‘Never Enough’ from The Greatest Showman which is new but old, in that it makes you realise that Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are actually in a direct line from great tunesmiths like Jerry Herman. Despite having musical theatre in her blood (her sister Zizi is currently starring in Mary Poppins) she understands how to calibrate material for a cabaret room, not overloading the songs with theatrical “business”, something many musical theatre performers’ forget when embarking on putting together a cabaret set.
This series of special shows runs until November 14.