The Stephen Sondheim Society Presents… at the Phoenix Artist Club, London.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
Emcee Tim McArthur and his first set of guests, Valerie Cutko, Corrine Priest and Martin Milnes, opened the first of a series of The Stephen Sondheim Society Presents…, a cabaret dedicated to a mix of old classics, new material, and (of course) a healthy handful of Stephen Sondheim’s timeless tunes.
The night’s unique blend of Cutko’s graceful soprano, Milnes’ powerful countertenor, McArthur’s soulful baritone and Priest’s wonderfully expressive voice was a great musical treat. Particular highlights for me were the rare gems ‘The Girls of Summer’ (Cutko) and ‘Don’t Laugh’ (Priest). Mines also impressed with a haunting ‘One More Kiss’ and a platter of energetic songs throughout, ending with a joyously frenetic ‘Buddy’s Blues’. On the piano was MD David Harvey steering between the mix of styles with flair.
Be assured it wasn’t just Sondheim, as the eclectic listing also included ‘The Lambeth Walk’, some Kander and Ebb from McArthur, Priest’s ‘Back to School’ and Cutko’s ‘In a Restaurant By the Sea’, musical theatre writing from Tim Connor/Lia Buddle and John Bucchino respectively.
In the Manhattan-esque retreat of the Phoenix Artist Club – the quaint, good value, theatrical haunt beneath its namesake theatre on the side of Soho – the evening was a welcome sight in a cabaret scene that has lately waned. It’s especially nice to see a cabaret with a commitment to a composer who, while popular enough here in London, is often given more lip-service than performance time. My only complaint would be that the evening was over too quickly, with both halves totalling to little over an hour of music.
No doubt this is a formula that will be tinkered with as the evening gets into its stride, and we can hopefully look forward to cabarets with extra stagey anecdotes and chat, as it would be great to hear more about the performers.
The series continues its residency downstairs at the Phoenix one Monday a month, with tickets at £12 for Sondheim Society members and £15 for non-members.
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