Just reading Janie Dee’s entry in Wikipedia is exhausting! This multi-talented artiste has achieved so much and her return to Cabaret at The Pheasantry (Pizza Express Chelsea) demonstrates her amazing versatility.
In fact, a fitting subtitle to the evening would be “An informal evening with friends” because from the very start that’s what it seems like. She has that rare quality, charisma, that immediately charms the audience and puts everyone at their ease, in this case in a medley of Kander and Ebb numbers including “Wilkommen” and “Cabaret” but also including “Yes” with new lyrics authorised by Kander himself, after his ‘estate’ had refused permission.
The other composer featured is Stephen Sondheim, not surprisingly as until the end of last week Ms Dee was starring in a production of A Little Night Music at the Buxton Festival.
Other well-known songs included “What a Wonderful Life”, Alan Ayckbourn’s “The Copy Typist” and “Time Heals Everything” but there were many more, some well known, others less so, but all put over with a rare freshness and delight in being able to communicate with an audience of… “friends”.
In addition, songs were interspersed with delightful, apparently unrehearsed, anecdotes relating to the amount of dust on the piano after eighteen months of neglect (she asked a member of the audience for a paper serviette and dusted the instrument), and a gorgeous dress left in her dressing room by Lorna Dallas which she suddenly decided to wear for her second set: the tale involving a coat of Janie’s that Lorna admired and wanted to own, so that the dress was bribery!
During the first set, Janie introduced us to a very talented performer who had been in the cast of A Little Night Music, Sarah Ingram; she delighted the audience with two contrasting songs from the show. One hopes that Sarah might also offer us an evening of cabaret at The Pheasantry before long!
Holding everything together, and reminding Janie Dee of what songs she had just omitted and what was happening next, was her superbly talented pianist Stevie Higgins, so much more than an accompanist! He impressed us with his frequent jazz-inspired solos between verses of songs as well as singing in a duet during the second set.
All in all, this was a superbly enjoyable, relaxing, highly entertaining evening, clearly hugely enjoyed by everyone present, and well worth stopping reading this review immediately to see if there are any tables left for future performances. An evening designed to lift the spirits after all these months of Covid Lockdowns! Unfortunately, I am only allowed to award this show…
Review by John Groves
Janie is an award-winning British actress, singer and musical theatre performer, characterised by her extraordinary versatility in acclaimed work on stage, film, television and radio.
29th to 31st July – Janie Dee