Janie Dee performs her show Dee-Licious, Lightful and Lovely! at the Crazy Coqs until 14 March.
Star rating: 5 stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Last night a packed audience filled with showbiz personalities was treated to a masterclass in cabaret perfection. The multi-talented Janie Dee entertained, enthralled and enchanted her many fans with glorious singing as well as amusing and revealing anecdotes.
Free from having to stay ‘in character’, as she must in a stage production, the actress and singer plays to and with her audience. Even we reviewers were not safe from her playful banter.
This freedom allows Dee to improvise and seize opportunities as they arise. On spotting Wayne Sleep, she reminisced with him about their time in Berlin as the wall came down. Similarly, after the interval, when the artist was joined by guitarist David Shaw-Parker, she persuaded him to perform an impromptu version of the theme music from Cinema Paradiso for Greta Scacchi – a favourite film of both actresses.
The choice of songs is nicely varied with soaring ballads tempered with the wistfulness of ‘Jardin d’Hiver’ and the whimsy of Spike Milligan’s ‘Can You Hear Me God?’ Comedy is never far away as she tries to persuade the audience to join her in ‘Poisoning Pigeons’, and she excels in a personal favourite of mine, Ayckbourn’s ‘Copy Type’. Her depiction of an inept BBC copy-typist, bewildered by the irrational order of the keyboard lettering, has the audience howling with laughter.
In paying tribute to Coward, Dee reminisces about appearing with Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit last year and the cabaret she organised in her honour. The choice of singing ‘Where Are the Songs We Sung?’ was a serendipitous one as it proved to be one of Lansbury’s favourites. Dee reprises this along with ‘Someday I’ll Find You’.
Then it was the turn of Sondheim to be honoured. Dee invited Damian Humbley to come on stage where he thrilled with the anthem-like ‘Marry Me a Little’. Every night there will be a different guest. Tonight (Wednesday 11 March) the performer will be joined by her daughter Matilda.
Dee continues with ‘Anyone Can Whistle’ and a highly emotional version of ‘Like It Was’, before returning to comedy with ‘Getting Married Today’. In the interest of delivering a balanced review, I searched hard to find any negative points, and the only one could I come up with was a slight stumble with this notoriously difficult tongue twister.
Accompaniment is provided by The Parker Boys – musical director Alex Parker on piano and David Shaw-Parker on guitar. Both are superb throughout and, along with Dee, provide a rousing finish with ‘La Bamba’ which sums up the evening. It’s like being invited to a party with friends.
The rapturous reception at the end was rewarded with an encore – ‘When I Marry Mister Snow’ – which brought back fond memories of Dee’s award-winning performance as Carrie Pipperidge in the National Theatre production of Carousel.
Readers may also be interested in:
London Festival of Cabaret – Kerry Ellis, Janie Dee, Cynthia Erivo and Scott Alan join line-up – News
London Cabaret Awards 2015 – winners revealed – News
Interview – new Mrs Henderson Janie Dee on returning to cabaret at the Crazy Coqs