Friday, 06 March 2015

Just In Time

A national treasure leaves Halifax and delivers a memorable night full of music and laughter

Written by Richard Barber

Richard-Barber-176She’d be worth the price of entry if she were reading from the telephone directory. There’s something so cherishable about Anne Reid – that delicious mix of steel and barely suppressed mischief that she taps into so memorably as Celia in the small-screen hit Last Tango In Halifax – that you’re already on her side before she opens her mouth.

And she improves with age, some compliment given that she turns 80 at the end of May (‘Such a nuisance,’ she says, dismissively). She last appeared in the intimate setting of London’s Crazy Coqs 85-seater cabaret room a couple of years ago, sharing anecdotes and singing a selection of her favourite songs.

She was there again in the middle of February – and yes, Derek Jacobi was in the audience with his guest, Imelda Staunton – but this time sharing the bill with actor/musician Stefan Bednarczyk on piano. The show is called Just In Time and it celebrates the lives and work of US lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green, whose lifelong collaboration produced the book and lyrics for musicals such as On The Town: their hits included New York, New York, The Party’s Over – as well as the screenplay for Singin’ In The Rain.

It was hard to say who was having a better time, the performers or the audience, as Anne and Stefan alternated sometimes scurrilous showbiz gossip (the story, too rude to repeat here, about Coral Browne putting down someone she guessed was upstaging her still makes me smile) with renditions of such songs as the tongue-twisting If You Hadn’t, But You Did and the plaintive Make Someone Happy. Stefan scored a hit, too, with the spookily topical Capital Gains (from the rarely revived musical Subways Are For Sleeping) and its disparaging references to Swiss banks.

Now the good news is that you can catch the two of them at the same venue doing the same set at the end of April as part of the London Festival Of Cabaret, which includes turns from Jack Jones (28 April to 3 May) and Anita Harris (10 May) at The Pheasantry; Janie Dee and friends – who include Celia Imrie – at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe (10 May); and Nicky Haslam at the St James Theatre Studio (28 and 30 April), among many others. Life is indeed a cabaret.

From 28 April until 2 May at The Crazy Coqs, 20 Sherwood Street, London W1: 020-7734 4888, www.crazycoqs.com
www.londonfestivalofcabaret.com



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