Janie Dee performed in cabaret at the St James Studio Theatre, London as part of the London Festival of Cabaret.
It would be hard to imagine a more fitting artist to end the first week of the London Festival of Cabaret than Janie Dee – a consummate performer who does not just sing a song but also acts it. She raises material from the ordinary with sublime emotional interpretation.
The intimate venue suited her well as she held the packed audience enthralled throughout. The evening was more like a party with friends that she was entertaining. Stepping down from the stage, she moved easily amongst them, chatting to some, serenading others. She exchanged some banter with Michael Feinstein who opens the Festival’s second week of performances.
Dee’s programme was a revised version of the cabaret act she launched at the beginning of the year. The intervening time had added maturity and depth to her delivery – ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ was exquisite. The wistful mood continued in Kit Hesketh-Harvey and James McConnel’s ‘Casablanca’ and in ‘Misty’, the latter featuring a fine piano solo from MD Ben Atkinson.
Dee’s comedic talent was seen at its best as a blousy waitress claiming that ‘The Piano Player’s Mine’ and in ‘Copy Type’, focusing on an inept typist who is flummoxed over the peculiar order of the letters on a keyboard (penned by Alan Ayckbourn and Paul Todd). This led to the disclosure that Ayckbourn is working on a new musical and that she will be workshopping it.
‘Touch Me in the Morning’ followed on from an anecdote about her early career when she was a jazz singer in a seedy nightclub, while Ellington’s ‘Satin Doll’ included self-accompaniment as she created trumpet riffs in a scat-like fashion.
A member of the audience was taken by surprise when asked to unzip her dress during ‘I’m Changing’, when she did just that. Off came the dress and on went a tuxedo as she launched into ‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’.
The world of musical theatre was represented by several numbers from Kander & Ebb and mention of the National Theatre’s 50th anniversary led her into reprising ‘(When I Marry) Mister Snow’ (Dee played the role of Carrie Pipperidge in the acclaimed Nicholas Hytner production of Carousel and won a 1993 Olivier for her performance). For the finale she had the audience joining in with the title song from Hello, Dolly!, a role she had played at Leicester Curve last Christmas and for which she had recently received the UK Theatre Award for Best Musical Performance.
The delectable Dee excited us with the news that she will be returning to St James Studio, or Jimmy’s as she has rechristened it, in January, but teasingly declined to tell us what she will be appearing in.
Check out reviews of other performances in the London Festival of Cabaret: