Melinda Hughes continues at Live At Zédel, London until 15 March.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
Melinda Hughes is a classically trained singer who successfully manages to combine an operatic career with contrasting cabaret work. In collaboration with musical director Jeremy Limb, she writes much of her material. Their work encompasses both political and social satire, often as parodies of well-known songs.
Donald Trump and Brexit offer rich pickings for her current show with social media also coming in for a bashing. Up-to-date political satire performed musically brought back youthful memories, when one rushed home on a Saturday night to catch Millicent Martin sing of the latest scandals and topical news in That Was the Week That Was.
She launches her show lustily with ‘The Opening Song’, a guide to hooking an audience. It enables her to demonstrate her operatic range as well as her gift for mimicry as snatches of classic musical lyrics intersperse with her own words. She almost out-belts Ethel Merman.
Her barbs at Trump start with the idea of returning the USA back to British rule in ‘Britannia Waives the Rules’ – a list song. The classic ‘Blues in the Night’, updated to ‘Tweets in the Night’, mocks his bad grammar.
‘Das Lila Lied’, a much darker number from the cabaret world of the Weimar Republic, is a forceful anthem coupled with Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’. Balancing the genders falls to Mary Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim’s comic parody of ‘The Boy From…’
A couple of the numbers are in the style of Noel Coward. ‘Please Don’t Invite Me to Your Country Estate’ is a Chelsea girl’s lamentation over rural delights, while ‘I’m Going to Meet Prince Harry’ finds her getting steadily drunk due to the late arrive of the Royal one. Echoes here of ‘I’ve Been To a Marvellous Party’. Both show off Hughes’ comic talent.
Hughes has a naughty knack of leading us up the garden path as she commences with a strong emotional ballad of a lover’s break up, only to switch it to comedy. ‘If You Are Going to Go’ is a masterful piece of misdirection. As is the encore number – a tender remembrance which becomes a real hoot, sending up ‘Selfies’.
In addition to her singing qualities Hughes has a nice line in comic patter which she shares with her musical director. Among her humorous interludes are appearances as Melania Trump, reading from her diary.
Musical accompaniment is provided by Limb on piano and Robert Rickenberg (double bass) and Jamie Fisher (drums).
The evening is a short one that leaves the audience with an appetite for more.
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Interview – singer and satirist Melinda Hughes makes her mark on London Cabaret