Julie Atherton – Tempting Fate – St James Theatre Studio

Julie Atherton performed her show

Julie Atherton performed her show Tempting Fate at the St James Theatre Studio, London

Julie Atherton’s show Tempting Fate was performed at the St James Studio Theatre, London.

The second London Festival of Cabaret got up a head of steam with the delightful Julie Atherton at St James Studio, her vibrant collection of newer songs a distinct contrast to the more nostalgic material we heard from Simon Green at the Crazy Coqs earlier in the week.

Watching this sassy, sparky northern lass work an audience with sharp humour, a great gift for mimicry and a striking voice that is attracting a cult following was a quick reminder of the broad church that is cabaret.

Whether duetting with her friend Laura Pitt-Pulford on the riotously funny ‘I’m So Over Men’, from Stiles and Drewe’s Soho Cinders, or breaking our hearts with Adam Gwon’s ‘I’ll Be Here’, from Ordinary Days, the show I first saw her in at the Trafalgar Studios three years ago, she had everyone eating out of her hand.

Passionate about showcasing emerging talents and concerned that musical theatre is becoming too stuck in the past and tried-and-trusted formulae, Atherton is putting names like Gwon, Craig Adams, Scott Alan, John Legend, Michael Bruce and Lance Horne in front of a new, younger cabaret public.

I just wish that modern songwriters and those, like Atherton, who interpret them did not feel the need to use the F-word and smutty double entendres so frequently for their humour. It quickly palls and less is more.

That is not a comment that applies to ‘Fine’, a clever boy-girl musical argument about wine, again from Ordinary Days, for which Atherton brought on her “Australian hunk” Ben Lewis, her recent co-star in the much-acclaimed Thérèse Raquin which transfers to the Park Theatre in August. He is well worth hearing at greater length.

Michael Bruce’s ‘Portrait of a  Princess’, Dougal Irvine’s ‘Baby Baby’ and her pig-tailed encore ‘Party Dress’ (by Kait Kerrigan & Brian Lowdermilk) were genuinely funny songs which showed off Atherton’s versatility as an actress-singer, while the simple beauty of ‘Never Saw Blue Like That’ and the pick of the night, ‘I’ll Be Here’, were excellent examples of her deft touch with ballads.

A third guest, Aled Pedrick, and Atherton’s backing girls Genesis Lynea (taking a night off from The Bodyguard) and Ellie Kirk somehow also got on to a crowded stage which also featured David Randall on piano, Harry Lane on drums, George Glover on guitar and Adam Smith on bass.

Altogether, an evening with much to admire.

Jeremy Chapman

Readers may also be interested in:

Adam Guettel – why the composer is drawn to cabaret – Interview

Simon Green – So This Then is My Life – Crazy Coqs – Review

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