Sally Ann Triplett performs her show Elephants to Broadway and Back Again at the Crazy Coqs, London until 11 July.
Star rating: 3 stars ★ ★ ★
Actress and singer Sally Ann Triplett always imagined she was going to be a ballet dancer until she discovered at a relatively young age that she had a “loud voice” and was quite good at being a “hoofer”.
These comments are characteristic of the multi-talented performer’s approach to this cabaret, for while Triplett manages to make a fast-paced musical reference to every West End show she has appeared in (11 according to her, although is it 12?!) during the first half of her set, she appears shy of highlighting all she has achieved so far in an impressive and varied career stretching over four decades.
In fact, a few more anecdotes about her roles in shows – ranging from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas to Mamma Mia! (not forgetting the Spice Girls musical Viva Forever, of course) – plus a little more emotional investment in the songs chosen, would encourage a stronger connection with the audience.
When Triplett places a song in context with a snippet of dialogue or performs a piece that appears to strike a personal chord, the results are worth waiting for. There is a poignancy about her rendition of the 1926 popular song ‘When the Red, Red Robin’, for example, particularly as it follows reminiscences of Sunday afternoon drives singing old songs with her father.
Years later several of those songs featured in the 1995 bio-musical Jolson in which Triplett, as Ruby Keeler, played opposite Brian Conley in the title role. From that show, the actress picked ‘You Made Me Love You’, and I have rarely heard a better interpretation of this charming musical love letter to movie icon Clark Gable.
The rest of the first half journey is something of a rush via Grease, Cats, Anything Goes, Chicago, Guys and Dolls (nice to hear a female voice performing ‘Luck Be a Lady’ for a change) and a rarely heard number from Acorn Antiques – The Musical, but while Triplett can belt out a number with incredible style, it’s actually when the pace slows down – on this occasion for a stopover in Mamma Mia! and a nuanced version of ‘Chiquitita’ – that she demonstrates how special her talent is, not just as a musical theatre performer, but as a singer in her right.
Elsewhere Triplett also demonstrates her versatility beyond the musical theatre genre, looking and sounding perfectly at home with jazz arrangements of ‘The Best is Yet to Come’ and ‘Straighten Up and Fly Right’.
Triplett comes to the Crazy Coqs straight from appearing in A Damsel in Distress at Chichester Festival Theatre, and a fellow cast member, Sam Harrison, joins her for a jolly trio of songs (‘Could You Use Me?’, ‘How About You?’, ‘Good Morning’) which demonstrate both artists’ comic timing. This contrasts nicely with probably the best moment of the whole evening – a rendition of ‘In Buddy’s Eyes’ from Follies. Triplett played Young Phyllis in the 1987 London production, but how wonderful it would be to see her as the adult Phyllis or Sally in a future production.
As the title of her show suggests, Triplett has been on many adventures, starting off her career riding on elephants in the circus, moving on to being a singing Smurf and twice representing the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest. Plus there are the two Broadway musicals, the notorious Carrie – The Musical and, more recently, The Last Ship, in which she ended up playing opposite the show’s composer, Sting.
Just a few stories from Triplett about any of these experiences would have been welcome and perhaps given the evening more structure. Anyone who happens to mention she was punched by a champagne-loving Eartha Kitt during a performance of Follies must have some tales to tell!
Quality accompaniment (if a little too loud on occasions) comes from musical director/pianist Mark Dickman, Dave Berry on bass and Martin Layzell on drums.
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Interview – Sally Ann Triplett doing what she loves in A Damsel in Distress at Chichester