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Lorna Dallas: ‘Glamorous Nights and Rainy Days’ in London

Time heals. Well, sometimes. There was a significant life event alluded to but never specifically mentioned the first time I saw Lorna Dallas at the Crazy Coqs, because, frankly, Dallas did not wish to talk about it. Fair enough: there are plenty of ways to ooze happiness and positivity in a show. This time around, she spoke of the death of her husband Garry, who was the booking agent for Cunard amongst other clients, securing gigs for the likes of Neil Diamond and Dame Shirley Bassey. He died in 2014 at St Helier Hospital – which is either in London on account of it being served by red buses and being situated in the London Borough of Sutton, or in Surrey on account of its postcode. You need not be concerned: your reviewer only knows this level of detail about it because he was born there and was admitted to A&E (the emergency room, to American readers) there nineteen years after that.

Lorna Dallas: Glamorous Nights and Rainy Days Photo by Kevin Alvey.
Lorna Dallas: Glamorous Nights and Rainy Days Photo by Kevin Alvey.

Anyway, Dallas’ long-time musical director, Christopher Denny, glided through the varied numbers on the piano in what ended up being quite an eclectic mix of songs, some of which were obscure enough to require context, which was duly supplied. Dolores Gray (1924-2002) had starred in Carnival in Flanders and had even won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 1954, though the production itself lasted less than a week on Broadway. But that show was still responsible for ‘Here’s That Rainy Day’, which was recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and performed here by Dallas. She had, by this point in the proceedings, gone even further in terms of songs rarely heard. ‘He Doesn’t Need Me’ is from Step Right Up!, a musical about PT Barnum written by Don Gohman (1927-1974) and Hal Hackady (1922-2015), but never produced – the Cy Coleman (1929-2004) musical Barnum didn’t open on Broadway until a couple of decades after Step Right Up! had been written.

It’s probably worth pointing out that there were some familiar classics in the mix too, such as ‘I Have Dreamed’ from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, and ‘Pure Imagination’ from the motion picture Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The songs were interspersed with anecdotes and classy segues into the next number. It was polished and evidently rehearsed, but I’d rather have that than something less planned: I’ve sat through too many concerts where someone hasn’t thought through what they were going to say, and it’s seldom a good thing to witness. This was gloriously smooth, pleasant and controlled.

Given that Dallas spoke of Ivor Novello being her favourite composer (she didn’t, she gleefully admitted, come to know of his work until she came to Britain) one would be forgiven for wondering why there weren’t more items from his extensive back catalogue included here. That said, there are nineteen songs in a seventy-five-minute show, with stories to tell on top, and remarkably the performance never felt hurried. Dallas’ soprano voice was in fine form, with the biggest number being ‘By Strauss’, written by George and Ira Gershwin, with playful scorns on Broadway and musical theatre: the narrator prefers to dance to waltzes composed by Strauss (which one is not made clear).

The road to recovery from the pandemic is a long and winding one for the entertainment industry, and Dallas pointed out this was her first in-person audience in two years. I can only agree with her sentiments about there being nothing quite like being in the same room together. Nearly everyone who takes to a stage like the Crazy Coqs says they’re enjoying the experience. There’s no reason to doubt any of them, though Dallas’ sheer sincerity means only those with a heart of stone would fail to be moved by this masterclass in musical performance. A deserved standing ovation.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

Conceived with her two main collaborators, director Barry Kleinbort and musical director, Christopher Denny, Ms. Dallas again offers a venturesome programme featuring sublime standards and surprising rarities by composers as diverse as Michel Legrand, Harold Arlen, Jerry Herman and Ivor Novello.

LISTINGS INFO
Lorna Dallas’ Glamorous Nights and Rainy Days
Sunday 3 April & Tuesday 5 April at 7pm

Crazy Coqs
Live at Zedel
20 Sherwood Street
London W1F 7ED
Book tickets online at
https://www.brasseriezedel.com/

Telephone bookings: 020 7734 4888

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