Lorna Dallas performed her show Home Again at Live At Zédel, London. She also brings the show to the venue on Tuesday 4 July.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
London fell in love with American singer and actress Lorna Dallas and she with the city in 1971 when she sang the role of Magnolia in Harold Fielding’s production of Show Boat at the Adelphi Theatre where it ran for more than 900 performances, a record run for that musical.
Now the international theatre and singing star returns to the world of cabaret for the first time in two decades with her new show Home Again.
The show, directed by her longtime collaborator Barry Kleinbort, brings her back “to the neighbourhood”, as she put its, after too long an absence. The range of Dallas’ voice is all still there, the clarity of her upper register making a remarkable contrast to the richness of the lower voice.
She demonstrates in a Sondheim song with what one might term ‘the Dame Julie effect’, a seamless slide up the octaves, from bottom to top, as Julie Andrews achieved in ‘Le Jazz Hot’ from Victor/Victoria.
Dallas, wearing a striking outfit predominantly in peacock, was greeted with prolonged applause and a shout of “we love you” before going into ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’ (“I don’t know why I’m frightened/I know my way around here”), an apt and touching prelude to an evening of musical memories and autobiographical snippets.
Her choice of numbers highlights her fondness for Ivor Novello (“I’ll give the band a fiver/If they play a bit of Ivor”) and Jerome Kern.
Her pacing of Novello’s slow burner ‘My Life Belongs to You’, a bouquet to us her audience, builds to a stunning climax, her artistry undimmed.
Kern brings us to Show Boat with a breezy account of ‘Nobody Else But Me’, topped out with an impromptu dance break, and ‘Bill’, a loving valentine to Cleo Laine who was Julie to Dallas’ Magnolia.
So transfixed was Dallas by Laine’s solo one night that she went mistakenly to the wrong side of the stage to make her next entry!
Following in the footsteps of such diverse sopranos as Kiri Te Kanawa and Broadway star Barbara Cook, she gives us a rapturous ‘Summer Me, Winter Me’, a song that the former artist recorded for a Michel Legrand album; then ‘Chain of Love’, an affirmative ballad, introduced by Cook in the show The Glass Harp (1971).
A conversation about older men leads to a medley that includes ‘You and I’, an intimate solo to an enduring marriage, rendered with the wisdom of hindsight.
A Jerry Herman medley draws attention to the show’s musical director Jason Carr, her indefatigable accompanist.
Dallas sings ‘Before the Parade Passes By’ first time around as if lost in her own thoughts, then in march time, with Carr in full Sousa regalia as it were, drawing a panoply of stars and stripes from the black and white notes.
His rhapsodic playing underlines ‘Younger Than Springtime’ and ‘You are Love’, and to mark their long and enduring collaboration they duet on ‘You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow’, a jazzy Sondheim number celebrating the good times.