Marti Webb performed at The Pheasantry, London.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
So, it’s your actual birthday, the house is full and the clearly very discerning, expectant festive audience includes legendary lyricist Don Black – so, no pressure then! But, it’s a kind of pressure that Marti Webb has been dealing with all her illustrious performing life and here she breezed through a number of classic tunes, mostly from the iconic shows she has starred in down the decades.
A showbiz anecdote here, an anecdote there, plus a few off-the-cuff one-liners were included, and if there was anyone – and it’s impossible to visualise – who hadn’t heard of Webb before booking tickets, they would have realised pretty soon that here, on the intimate Pheasantry stage, was a consummate professional.
By the time she sings ‘Take That Look Off Your Face’ (Andrew Lloyd Webber/Don Black), she is totally in her comfort zone, confident enough to pick ‘Ben’ (Black/Walter Scharf) and even ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’, an evergreen number, but one that always cries out for inventive interpretation.
As a closer for Act I, a rendition of ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ is perfect – Webb climbing some stairs and standing on a balcony, which almost looks like it was built solely for this number to be performed on.
It’s pretty much a given that Webb’s voice doesn’t have the resonance now that it had when compared to her halcyon West End days, but it’s also very apparent that she factors that in, adapts her delivery and stays well within her current vocal capabilities.
That her set includes material she’s very familiar with, and is supremely comfortable performing, just adds to the intimate feel of her performance – and it has the effect of listening to a personal musical autobiography.
There’s nothing like enough time, of course, for Webb to even scratch the surface with tales from her long, successful career, but she doesn’t really need to. All she has to do is drop in a few names of shows and the people she’s worked with, and leave the audience to do the musical ‘maths.’
Wisely, Webb sticks to what she does best and if proof were needed that, even with her decades of performing behind her, no show is treated as just another day at the office, here she gets a little tearful when singing Sondheim’s ‘Send in the Clowns’. That an artist like her can be touched when performing such a familiar song speaks volumes.
The icing on this particular yuletide musical offering is a festive medley and finally an impromptu rendition of Happy Birthday from the audience, Don Black clearly pleased to join in.
As he knows better than most, you can’t beat a good tune.