Anne Reid performs I Love to Sing at the Crazy Coqs, London until 2 April.
Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Much-loved actress Anne Reid returns to the Crazy Coqs where she triumphed last year when she presented a long-deserved tribute to the prolific songwriting team of Comden and Green – an evening that made this old man happy. Now she features songs from a variety of writers in the company of composer, musical director and pianist Jason Carr (a two-time Tony nominee).
In addition to her musical numbers, Reid reveals the other side off her talent – she is a wonderful raconteur who is never shy of sending herself up. Her warmth and natural style soon creates an intimacy with her audience.
Trawling through her life, both inside and outside of showbusiness, she offers some fascinating and hilarious anecdotes. Her career started with Bromley Rep and led to playing Valerie Barlow in Coronation Street. Her time there provides her with a wealth of amusing titbits, as does working with Victoria Wood and her colleagues on Last Tango in Halifax.
She recognises how lucky she has been with the people she has met and the work she has been given. Her stories range from meeting Royalty, after she “dried” in front of the Queen when playing the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, to being inspired to try her hand at cabaret late in her career.
Her wishing that she had had the courage to try it 40 years earlier leads appropriately into Sondheim’s ‘The Road You Didn’t Take’. Another of his songs –‘What Do We Do? We Fly!’ – follows on from an extraordinary tale of her journey in a private jet with two RAF pilots from England to India when she was 12.
Expressing her distaste of modern pop lyrics, Reid delivers Ray Jessel’s ‘Wanna Sing A Show Tune’ – a paean to Broadway greatest musicals. She returns later with Jessel’s ‘Mon Amour’, a motley collection of French words and phrases during which she duets with Carr – each trying to outdo the other, even to the extent of slipping in the names of film stars disguised in Gallic style.
Although the show is full of humour and laughter, there are many moments of wistfulness and poignancy in her song choices. ‘Errol Flynn’, written by Amanda McBroom (soon to appear at the Crazy Coqs during the London Festival of Cabaret) is a good example. It is a moving recollection of McBroom’s father, an actor who often appeared with Flynn. And of course the pairing of ‘The Way We Were’ and ‘Once Upon a Time’ is guaranteed to open the tear ducts.
It would be wrong to ignore the contribution to the evening’s success made by Carr. Apart from his sensitive accompaniment and superb arrangements, his rapport with Reid is evident. Their relationship is sent up when they duet in ‘How Could You Believe Me…’
The audience is lovingly sent home with the resounding delights of ‘More I Cannot Wish You’.