Next month sees the second coming of the London Festival Of Cabaret. Don’t go expecting burlesque or circus here for this is, with a few notable exceptions, a fortnight-long celebration of the American and British songbook. Like the Sun’s Page 3, the festival has its knockers but it will hopefully be free of the controversy and outrage which dogged its inaugural outing last November.
Running from 6-22 May, the festivities will take part across a number of venues with Crazy Coqs, St James Theatre, The Pheasantry, Jermyn Street Theatre, the Hippodrome Casino, Jazz Club Soho Pizza Express and Ambassadors Theatre all getting involved. With some of these spaces being off the cabaret beat and many of the featured artists making special appearances, this is a golden opportunity to expand one’s cabaret horizons.
Wondering what to see? Wonder no more as we present our recommendations here.
Barb Jungr: Hard Rain
She may be a newly-minted OAP by the time she turns up at this gig but Jungr is still one of this nation’s most vibrant interpreters of the American songbook. While Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen may be heralded as supreme songwriters, Jungr adds a missing quality to their repertoires that they never provided, namely a superb singing voice. In her hands, their material is taken to new levels of meaning and beauty and fans new and old of Dylan, Cohen or Jungr will undoubtably find something quite special in this latest show.
Sunday 11 and Monday 12 May. 8pm. Jazz Club Soho Pizza Express. £20. www.pizzaexpresslive.com
We ask Barb Jungr: “what would you do if you had Bob Dylan to yourself for a day?“
Fascinating Aida: Charm Offensive
When it comes to musical comedy, it does not get any better than this. Three decades strong, this rude, lewd and utterly hilarious combo bring their latest show Charm Offensive to the festival as part of a sold-out national tour. Their streetwise humour is often dangerously close to the bone and all the better for it. Indeed, these ladies still delight in sticking two fingers up at targets as far wide as OFSTED, dogging, death and, most famously, a certain provider of inexpensive air travel.
Sunday 11 May. 3pm and 7.30pm. St James Studio. £25-£35. www.stjamestheatre.co.uk
Sarah-Louise Young: Julie Madly Deeply
A favourite on cabaret circuits around the world, Sarah-Louise Young is quite the package. There’s the powerful and versatile voice that can handle pretty much anything you can throw at it. There’s the intelligent and acerbic wit which belies her sweet, wholesome appearance. And there’s the magnetic charm which can draw audience in from the off. Accompanied by Michael Roulston, one of the busiest and best musical directors around, the duo’s take on the life, love and songs of the iconic Dame Julie Andrews is no jukebox musical but a insightful, funny and occasionally moving journey.
Tuesday 13 May. 8pm. St James Studio. £20-£25. www.stjamestheatre.co.uk
Young and Roulston can also be seen in two other joint efforts: Two Faced appears at St James Studio on 15 May as part of the London Festival Of Cabaret while Songs For Cynics will be at the London Wonderground on 24 July.
Janie Dee: Masterclass on the art of performance
If the ticket prices are scaring you off the festival, here’s a completely free introduction to songbook performance from the Olivier Award-winning actress and singer Jane Dee. This lunchtime event is supported by the Noel Coward Foundation and gives the opportunity for Dee to demonstrate and teach the art of storytelling in front of a live audience. While tickets are free, booking is essential. Other masterclasses to be held at the Hospital Club are due to be announced on the festival’s website.
Alison Jiear: In Your Eyes
Seen in Jerry Springer The Opera as the plump poledancer Shawntel, the irrepressible Alison Jiear is a powerhouse crowdpleaser. Her immense vocal talent has brought her rave reviews, not least her sell-out show from Pizza On The Park. For the festival, she’ll be reprising the show with a few musical twists and she’s bringing along the Clive Dunstall trio along for the ride.
Friday 16 and Sunday 18 May. 8pm. St James Studio. £25-£30. www.stjamestheatre.co.uk
“It’s hard to think of another female singer, living or dead, who encompasses the range of styles with which she’s comfortable and so consummately good. ” Johnny Fox reviews Jiear’s Under The Influence
Full information on all of the London Festival Of Cabaret’s shows can be found on the official website. Obviously, the venues will have other shows alongside those included in the festival. Did you know that one of the Mad Men cast is coming to town?