Joan Vázquez: Something’s Coming, A Sondheim Tribute at Live At Zedel, London.
Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩
Anyone escaping a filthy-wet Saturday evening expecting to hear a Spanish version of Bernadette Peters interpreting the Stephen Sondheim Songbook will have been in for a surprise: this Joan was no lady but a handsome señor from Barcelona.
Joan (pronounced Jo-arn, he tells me) Vázquez, a singer-pianist making his London debut at Live At Zedel, treated a full house to 17 of Sondheim’s finest compositions in a pleasing 75-minute show that was more recital than cabaret as he never moved from piano and sheet music.
They were mostly old favourites, not all of them songs associated with men (‘Losing My Mind’, ‘Not a Day Goes By’), but with the occasional surprise such as a bluesy ‘What Can You Lose?’, from the film Dick Tracy and a song he loved even before he knew who wrote it.
Not all the notes played or sung were the ones Sondheim necessarily had in mind, but there was no mistaking Vázquez’s passion for the material or the easy power of his baritone.
The linking material, delivered in a charming English, told us a bit about Sondheim but not much about Vázquez, which was a shame because he was a new name to us.
In fact, he is a 34-year-old with credits in Merrily We Roll Along, Rent, Mamma Mia! and The History Boys who launched this Sondheim tribute show a year ago, along with a CD, and it was such a success he was invited to bring it to London.
Two highlights were the Into the Woods duets with guests Natalie Hope and Peter Caulfield. With Hope it was ‘It Takes Two’, then he and Caulfield (Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park), were the two princes comparing the misery of their unobtainable loves in ‘Agony’.
Company got plenty of attention with ‘Another Hundred People’, ‘Marry Me a Little’ and ‘Being Alive’, but one from that show we perhaps expected because of the singer’s birthplace, but didn’t get, was ‘Barcelona’. Maybe next time…
It’s always good to hear someone new and, from the warmth of the applause, this won’t be the last visit from this likeable señor.