Superb Dann let down by her material

Review by Paul Nelson

THE short season of cabaret at the Jermyn Street Theatre was by and large a great success.

It's great mainstay was Stefan Bednarczyk, a more than talented pianist and entertainer who seemingly without grudge accompanied all the artistes, a different one each night.

On the last night, making a debut cabaret performance, was Sophie-Louise Dann, an artist I have previously admired at the JST, the Players' Theatre, and in the West End, notably Forbidden Broadway.

In all she was superb.

However, during the first half of her debut something went distinctly wrong. Whether or not it was nerves, she gave an edgy performance in spite of Bednarczyk's confident help. The first half of the show was decidedly flat.

Staring with a duet, Notes for an Audience, from The Frogs, the evening began to rely quite heavily on Stephen Sondheim, current favourite composer/lyricist of all actors. That is all well and good but constant repetition and even his most recherché songs become hackneyed.

Take for example, The Boy From … an excellent gag but how many times can one hear a joke. On its 17th hearing, it is irritating. No matter how differently it is approached, it remains an old joke.

The choice of material in the first half was also very doubtful. Jerome Kern songs need singing not belting.

Apparently Miss Dann is a shoe-in to play Judy Garland in a show on Broadway, so she gave the audience an imitation in a selection which included naturally Over the Rainbow and The Trolley Song, complete with shaky tremolo and the short 's' beloved of all the drag copycats. It was a shaky act.

The second half was a different thing altogether. Initially removing her hand mike, of which she has no need, the songs were of a classier choice and much more like cabaret material as opposed to audition material.

The patter was a made-up affair, with she and Bednarczyk going back when, she and the piano going back when, she and the JST going back when and me wishing I could just go back to when she had a director.

A stab at saving the evening came from Little White House (Sondheim again), but by then, alas, for this reviewer the die had been cast and although the audience yelped like the Battersea Dogs Home, I found I was grateful for the curtain speech.

Photo: The above photo was taken by Nick Dann, Sophie-Louise's husband.

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