Anita Gillette and Harold Sanditen performed their show Harold and Broad at The Pheasantry, London.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
Although ostensibly a celebration of their respective birthdays, Harold Sanditen is 60, Anita Gillette, 80, this joyous two-hander is essentially a paean to the notion that life should be lived to the hilt.
The context of their show is a class act in song interpretation linked by some witty repartee (“when you get over the hill, you start picking up speed”), underlined by the performers’ tender regard for one another.
Gillette came to prominence in a small handful of Broadway musicals in the early 1960s where she often stole the show with a single song as with ‘The Secret Service’ in Irving Berlin’s Mr President (1962). Sanditen was an investment banker and producer but always yearned to sing.
They entered dressed in sparkling evening coats, redolent of the 1970s, in variations of black and blue, before launching into a trio of medleys marking their birth years: 1936 and and 1956.
In the first medley, the juxtaposition of tunes (‘Let Yourself Go’/‘I Could Have Danced All Night’) didn’t quite mesh, but from then on they had us in the palm of their hands, hips swaying in motion, to such favourites as ‘Just in Time’ and ‘Mutual Admiration Society’.
Thereafter their song choices were more a reflection of their personal attributes. Gillette recalled that her childhood nickname was ‘pickles’ after Shirley Temple who she celebrated in a fun piece, ‘At the Codfish Ball’.
She sang songs from the Second World War, associated with the war effort at home where her mother had worked in a factory (‘Rosie the Riveter’), and in the UK (‘Thing-Ummy-Bob’), a tongue twister she delivered with aplomb.
‘Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man’ brought a lump to the throat (my she knows how to employ those vocal cords) and she held nothing back in a no holds barred medley on the theme of ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’.
One would never have imagined a place for ‘Gonna Get Along Without Ya Now’ in such company, but it worked a treat.
In a more contemplative vein, Sanditen sang a Kurt Weill song about a soldier engaged in a personal crusade to end all wars which he threaded around Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, a song I’ve resisted for years, until I fell for this unadorned interpretation.
‘Easy to Be Hard’ (from Hair) is no easy sing, but drawing on his personal experience of growing up as an outsider in the ‘bible belt’ of Oklahoma, every phrase was made to tell. Percussion/drummer player Paul Cavaciuti flecked the phrasing with some delicate colours.
Gillette rescued ‘I Still Believe in Love’ from the overwrought school of delivery, making of it a personal and poignant statement.
In a lighthearted vein, a polished medley followed, arranged by Paul Greenwood. With the word ‘like’ being substituted for ‘love’, this amusing sequence conjured up the sparkling wordplay of Comden and Green at their merriest.
The off-beat ‘Let’s Eat Home’ was a real find and indicative of the pair’s invigorating choice of material. They bade farewell with a tender account of ‘The Way You Look Tonight’, which summed up their own unaffected yet genuine mutual admiration.
Musical Director Noam Galperin was the evening’s stylish pianist and the immaculate bass was provided by Robert Rickenberg.
Gillette and Sanditen return to The Pheasantry in January (27/28). Put the dates in your diary.