Marti Webb In Concert continues at the Crazy Coqs, London until 17 March.
Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩
It would be indelicate to point out Marti Webb’s age, but as she lists a selection of her career highlights, it puts the performer into a remarkable perspective.
Webb’s career officially began in 1961, when she joined the cast of Stop the World – I Want to Get Off, starring Anthony Newley. The next big break came with the original production of Half a Sixpence, where she played the lead opposite Tommy Steele’s Arthur Kipps.
Featuring in original productions of Godspell and the first tour of Lionel Bart’s Oliver!, Webb really came to prominence taking over from Elaine Paige in Evita. Working with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black, the musical Tell Me On a Sunday was written specifically for her vocal talents, and Webb continues to be a regular presence in regional theatres, tours and countless charity concerts.
In 2014 Webb revisited the role of The Girl in Tell Me On a Sunday to critical acclaim, and as this performance at Crazy Coqs proves, the voice is still strong and demonstrates that signature belt that made her famous.
If anything, the chic venue is a touch too small for her talent, or rather Webb makes little concession to the intimacy of the space. All the old hits such as ‘Take That Look Off Your Face’, ‘What Kind Of Fool Am I?’ and ‘Buenos Aires’ are present and correct, and the power and clarity of the numbers are staggeringly sure footed.
The danger is that it all seems a little mechanical in places. Webb’s self-assurance, coupled with songs honed over an illustrious career, lack an emotional spontaneity. The songs still have their emotional narrative of course, but they risk becoming a little too worn with use. There is little in the way of re-interpretation, which is something cabaret audiences have grown to expect from its stars.
There’s plenty of anecdotes along the way, which is always good value and help inform the song choices, and a brief interlude with actor and singer Robert Meadmore changes the pace.
A chance meeting with Freddie Mercury backstage at Song & Dance leads to an engaging rendition of his ‘Love of My Life’.
Opening with the power ballad ‘All By Myself’ immediately establishes that the voice is still as sure as ever, although even Webb admits it’s an odd choice, considering the talented four-piece band on stage with her.
Undeniably a veteran of British musical theatre stage, Webb’s short run at the Crazy Coqs may lack focus but it’s encouraging to hear that the quality of her voice shows no sign of dimming with age.
Musical director Andy Read is joined by Justin Myers (bass guitar), Phil Crabbe (drums) and Gary Branch (woodwind).