An Evening With Robert Meadmore, Elaine Delmar and Jamie Safir was performed at The Pheasantry, London.
Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩
There’s no place quite like The Pheasantry in Chelsea. At once tiny, but able somehow to seat up to 90, plus their pizzas, plus a baby grand, it bustles with life and music.
The stage is set, as bright and prophetic as ever, and as the lights dim, there’s nowhere to hide for any performer. This is cabaret at its most intimate.
Robert Meadmore is no stranger to the stage, large or small. As a West End performer he has graced the boards in shows such as Camelot, Phantom, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma! and Brigadoon, amongst many others, and regularly pulls off cabaret performances with Love Songs at Crazy Coqs, and Ivor Novello and the Great British Musical. In 2005 he also released his first classical album, After a Dream, which reached No. 2 in the UK Classical Charts.
He was joined by the grand mellifluence of Elaine Delmar – also a West End veteran, Ronnie Scott’s royalty and jazz diva extraordinaire – along with the wonderful Jamie Safir, in his pianistic debut.
Meadmore was in fine voice -– his strong tenor flowing through the classic repertoire from Gershwin to Lionel Bart, to Gilbert O’Sullivan with ease.
What comes through in spades is the passion with which he holds the pieces – though it can stray into indulgence, his presence proves this to not be ego, but relishing of the genre.
His control and dynamic range was a pleasure to behold, though there were times when a less perfect sound might have been preferable in pursuit of more emotional honesty. Having said that, his rendition of Clare Maguire’s ‘This is Not the End’ is truly touching.
Delmar was a treat – a cross between golden age Ella Fitzgerald and Cleo Laine, she flitted and slipped her way through Martin and Blane’s ‘Trolley Song’, and Porter’s ‘Let’s Do it’, taking the old melodies for a well deserved walk through her vocal circus.
The arc of the set was well paced, but the show didn’t offer quite enough in terms of underlying dynamic – perhaps we are becoming too thirsty for high drama as an audience, but it did at times feel (in the first act in particular) that it was a bit too easy to glaze over.
Fascinating to watch though was the alchemy the two singers began to hold over each other. Meadmore began to loosen up, to swing a little more, and in contrast, Delmar’s bluesy free-as-a-bird alto was strengthened by the rigour of the more ‘legit’ sound.
The star of the show, however, and the binding force behind the entire set was Jamie Safir. Not only a pianist at the start of a hugely promising career, but a musical arranger of true talent, his arrangements of numbers new and old were both reverent and yet strongly contemporary.
Meadmore and Delmar’s voices were so unalike, it felt like it shouldn’t work, but their duets were so cleverly woven together that both voices shone, and the finale ballad ‘Bill’/‘Can’t Stop Lovin’ Dat Man’ was an uplifting end.
Overall, this was a pleasant evening in the company of passionate and good humoured performers at a venue which delivers time and time again.