She has won over the crowds in New York and Edinburgh and now cabaret star Lady Rizo is making her debut in London to much fanfare. Is she worth the hype?
Having won the inaugural Time Out and Soho Theatre Award at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012, New York City songstress Lady Rizo has brought her soulful tones and sassy comic interludes across the pond for a residency at London’s Soho Theatre. Her act is an obvious homage to Nina Simone and her ilk, but her varied repertoire spans the decades and mines many genres, adding her signature spark to songs both classic and contemporary.
The chanteuse vibe is perfectly pitched: she’s got the look down pat, with her smoky eyes and immobile updo. Seriously, that thing is solid – three cheers for her chosen brand of hairspray. Add to that a number of fancy frocks, a not unattractive band and some great tunes, and you’re looking at a very stylish night out.
Her reworkings of standards like If I Were Your Woman and Sinnerman are great vehicles for her fantastic voice, and there are laughs aplenty elsewhere in the set. Neil Gaiman’s I Google You comes complete with handy jokes already present in the lyric but her delivery milks them for all they’re worth. Original songs Ink Dip and Song of Freedom are powerful torch songs with ready-made singalong choruses that gather the crowd up and drive them into spontaneous cheers.
The only musical misstep is the inclusion of the Rogers and Hammerstein show tune Bali Hai, which has never felt so highly sexed as it does here with its stylings along the lines of Link Wray’s Rumble. It lacks the energy of her other numbers and fails to establish itself by having its foot either in or out of the comedy camp.
But no biggie. Girl got pipes. That is one seriously powerful instrument she’s working with – her purring vibrato skills are stellar, and she pounces on the big notes as though David Attenborough were narrating from the wings. Yet she never loses that sense of poise and glamour; a cheeky grin waiting to make an appearance at the climax of every number.
She certainly knows how to work the room and she holds the crowd in the palm of her hand, peeking out from under her ginormous eyelashes and drawing them into her retro utopia. You can imagine folks sat around in a Prohibition era jazz club, sneaking whisky through a haze of cigarette smoke and hanging on her every word. They’re part of the show throughout whether they’re singing backing vocals, helping out with costume changes or providing mood lighting while she goes for a wander across the tables. And props for the props: a pretty nifty backlit screen puts a new spin on the standard audience participation shtick and provides one of the evening’s stand-out comedy moments.
Lady Rizo’s London debut is an slick, self-assured affair and Soho Downstairs, with its round table cabaret setup, is the perfect venue for it. It’s all high energy, heels and hair and I left on a high. Can we keep her?
Read our exclusive interview with Lady Rizo here.
Lady Rizo. Soho Theatre (21 Dean Street, London, W1D 3NE). Mon 18 Feb – Sat 9 Mar (Not Sun & Mon), 21:45. £15.00-20.00 (£12.50-17.50 concessions). www.sohotheatre.com