THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
Lorna Luft — Back in Business
The Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zedel, 20 Sherwood St, London W1F 7ED
Until December 14, 2013
After a sell out week earlier in the year Lorna Luft returns to Brasserie Zedel for a two–week pre–Christmas run and gets everyone in the mood with a vivacious 'Happy Holidays' and you can't get more American than that. It's a spirited performance but with a singer possessing a voice this big in a room this small, some closer attention needs to be paid to sound levels.
In a later Yuletide section we get the see the genesis of this voice when the perky 11-ndash;year–old Lorna performed 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' with Jack Jones on her mother's TV show. Mother of course was Judy Garland, and with an even more famous sister, Lorna has had to title her own memoirs Me and My Shadows.
Now in her sixties, she's just come through major cancer treatment and told us how her doctor reassured her that her voice wouldn't be affected by the treatment but of course the songs would take on a new emotional resonance. This she demonstrated in an emotive rendition of Kander and Ebb's hymn to resilience 'My Own Best Friend'.
For this show she's wallowing in the Great American Songbook (and there's no harm in that) and it helps in her linking the material that folk like Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Comden & Green all spent a lot of time round their place during her formative years.
Jerry Herman is a particular friend and Luft's belter voice and merry bluster is a perfect fit for numbers like 'Dearie' or 'Wherever He Ain't'. 'Martha the Megaphone Watson' is her aptly titled comic alter ego from her White Christmas show (she added a character not in the movie) she gave us songs from that and the touching Songs My Mother Taught Me including 'The Man That Got Away' and 'Rockaby'.
It's an unashamedly sentimental set, she doesn't push any boundaries but she is a part of showbiz history and can deliver the goods. We also get a loving tribute to the great Dorothy Fields and an odd 'Not even nominated' medley that links many great standards merely by the fact they didn't get nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song. While this is a flimsy excuse for a medley, arranged by her accompanist (and husband) Colin Freeman, she's forgiven, as they're all great songs.