Three years ago, Shelley Goldstein achieved YouTube fame with with a pro-gay marriage song. She’s back with a short run in Soho restaurant Sergio’s.
Shelly Goldstein has returned to London with a short run of Tuesday night gigs in a packed Downstairs At Sergio’s, the basement of an Italian restaurant just north of Oxford Circus and in the Great Titchfield “Village”.
Her show Groovy Girls of the 60s takes us, with Nigel Lilley’s musical direction, through a female musical journey from 1963-73. These Boots appropriately set the scene before we are led through a musical Madame Tussaud’s of, among others, Carole King, Dusty Springfield and Lulu and others. Some songs are verbatim while others have been adapted. Unnatural Woman is a nod towards Hollywood’s obsession with plastic surgery, as well as her signature send up Stupid Callous Homophobic Hateful Legislation. Both track the changing cultural psyche apparent in North America and London.
Being an Italian eatery in one of the most Italian-eatery-intensive areas of London, it might be difficult to stand out from the crowd. However, gorgeous and gracious staff at Sergio’s (under the auspices of jovial manager Ronnie Davidson) charm you from the off, and the simple and authentic menu is not to be sniffed at either. Furthermore, if its authenticity you’re after, there’s a customary helping of Italian chefs arguing and throwing things at one another backstage, an unintentional theatre to which you’re treated to whenever you visit il gabinetto. This surefire evidence of integrity sets the scene for the tasty food and the relaxed, amusing vibe.
This place has a pedigree too, perhaps most famously as a nightclub once run by British screen siren Diana Dors. Prior to this it was known as the Paintbox, an underground artists’ and cabaret bar popular with the more flamboyant and theatrical people of the time. The late Fifties and Sixties saw the venue become a late night venue for many of the budding cabaret, comedy and original drag artists of the time.
An appropriately intimate venue for an intimate show, Goldstein’s show is delightful yet odd. She draws us into her narrative – through song and soliloquy – with a nonchalant charm and an audacious confidence. The story is told at once through her own life experiences (although she admits she was only a sprog in the 1960s) and through a more general prism of the trans-atlantic masses. The song element at times strays into the sentimental, at other times it abandons itself to the decadence of cabaret véritable. It could be renamed “Vagina Monologues do Broadway”.
There are difficulties with attempting this kind of historical narrative, and getting the balance between personal and universal, whilst keeping the audience hooked. It’s a brave thing to attempt as a one-woman show, and Goldstein’s background as a stand-up is evident in the delivery. A younger crowd may expect a few more bells and whistles but the scale of this production’s staging is perfect for the venue. All-in-all, this is a worthy distraction from the bustle of central London and the tasty menu, and a perfect Zeitgeist for those who wish to explore the works of divas past in a setting reminiscent of a Soho long gone by.
Shelly Goldstein. Downstairs at Sergio’s, London W1W 7QY12. 19, 26 March. Dinner from 7pm, show at 9pm. Cover charge of £10 includes free champagne cocktail.