Let Me Sing and I’m Happy – Wendi Peters at St James Theatre Studio, London, as part of the London Festival of Cabaret.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
There’s a first time for everything and baking a brownie, Wendi Peters’ interval treat for each member of her full-house audience, certainly put a new spin on ‘I Can Cook Too’ and ‘Come On-a My House, I’m Gonna Give You Candy’.
But as the versatile TV star was once a finalist on Celebrity Masterchef, where judge John Torode called her sticky toffee pudding “seriously sexy”, maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised.
It’s a wonder she didn’t have us up there sitting in that famous black chair, as she was also a runner-up in Celebrity Mastermind, scoring 18 out of 19 on her specialist subject, Kander and Ebb, before getting stumped on general knowledge.
Versatile has to be the middle name of this lovely, warm Lancashire lass, a little lady with a mighty big Ethel Mermanish belt who spun us so charmingly through the anecdotes and songs of her near-30-year showbiz career.
Not many have made the transition from Sondheim (her musical theatre bow came as Little Red Riding Hood in Into the Woods) to soap (two stints as Cilla Battersby-Brown in Coronation Street), through reality TV shows where she had made a lot of money for her chosen charities, and back again to theatre (White Christmas at the Dominion).
It’s a pity when artists get pigeon-holed as soap stars and aren’t recognised for their many other talents and, never have seen Coronation Street but knowing Peters was a ‘name’ because of it, I was gobsmacked when first hearing her knock it out of the park in the 2007 Follies charity concert at the Palladium.
The lady loves to sing and we got a little bit of everything, from mash-ups of ‘Tomorrow’ from Annie with Abba’s ‘Thank You For the Music’ and Mack and Mabel with Annie Get Your Gun to Noel Coward’s ‘If Love Were All’, and wonderfully funny songs too.
The poignant choice of Victoria Wood’s ‘Northerners’ (“Hot-pot, Seven in a cot, Head scarves and mushy peas”) elicited an anecdote about meeting “comedy royalty” for the first time and being so in awe of her talent that all she could think of doing was curtseying!
The little-known ‘Costco’, about the joys (?) of supermarket bulk-buying, was another comic gem that was cut from the 2009 Off-Broadway musical Next to Normal but proved perfect for cabaret.
Watching Chita Rivera, at 82, hold her audience in thrall in The Visit on a trip to New York last year prompted a lesser-known Kander and Ebb song ‘Love and Love Alone’.
And we shall surely have another Peters treading the boards one day. Her 15-year-old daughter Gracie joined Wendi in a duet before moving into a frighteningly mature solo, ‘The Glamorous Life’ from A Little Night Music, and was that a tear being wiped from a proud mum’s eye as it ended?
A special moment on an effortlessly flowing evening, a worthy climax at this venue to the two-week London Festival of Cabaret at St James Studio, Crazy Coqs and The Pheasantry.
Dan Robinson and Mark Prendergast provided excellent vocal and dance support in some well-choreographed Irving Berlin show numbers and musical director James Cleeve’s piano work was as yummy as that brownie, so good it would have been rude not to have two.
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Bernstein Revealed – St James Theatre Studio – Review
Up Close and Personal – Amanda McBroom – Crazy Coqs – Review