January 10 2012
For the second year running the Landor Theatre has transformed into a cabaret venue, providing a stage for West End stars, both long established and newly emerging, to showcase themselves in an atmosphere that is intimate and yet stylishly professional with its A Spotlight On… season. This year’s run was opened by Kim Ismay, performing a collection of songs some selected from her career and others, simply numbers that she adores.
Chic-ly dressed in black on a simple stage and with her sole accompanist the talented Alastair Gavin seated at a gleaming white grand piano, Miss Ismay opened her set with two Bond numbers. The demure passion of “Nobody Does It Better” gently warming the audience up, before a powerful interpretation of “Diamonds are Forever”, that explored the provocative nature of Don Black’s lyrics.
Ismay’s choice of songs took us on a journey both in time and geography. In a nod to Streisand her “Second Hand Rose” took us on a journey that seemed to include Brooklyn as well as Second Avenue, such was the authenticity of her New York persona and with “Don’t Let It Rain on My Parade” her performance simply filled the stage, spectacularly capturing the big-scene vision of that song on her own.
Her choice of songs was frequently interspersed with recollections and anecdotes from her wide-ranging and extensive career and at times she reflected upon songs from roles she wished she had been cast for. One of these was Audrey’s heart-rending “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors. Ismay simply delivered this song beautifully. This reviewer had been privileged to have heard Ellen Greene perform the song live in 2011, and hearing Ismay sing it at the Landor made me wonder for the Audrey that never was, but arguably should have been!
Midway through the show, she was joined by the talented Kelly Rainford and Amy Hill. Both performed excellent solo numbers, before a classy 3-part harmony of “You Gotta Get a Gimmick”. Ismay then opened the second act of the evening with “My Shattered Illusion”, a clever rendition of the Fascinating Aida song, before she then brought her earlier personification of New York across the Atlantic, and into Oliver!’s London. “It’s A Fine Life”, followed by “As Long As He Needs Me” reminded us that Kim is a London girl who can perform beautifully.
Bringing the songs up to date and confessing to not being a soprano, Kim sang “Popular” from Wicked in a way that truly showed the range of her voice. She then performed “For Good” from the same show, duet ting with Amy Hill. Interestingly, away from the vast jaws of the Apollo Victoria stage, and presented in the intense intimacy of cabaret , the song grew. The two women delivered Schwartz’s stunning and perceptive tribute to friendship with such heart that some of the audience were left quietly sobbing! She then closed her set with “Journeyman” , a passionate song from her one woman show, About Bill, ending the night to rapturous applause.
The Landor Theatre and Andrew Keates are to be praised for presenting the “A Spotlight On ..” series. Taking this opening event as a benchmark, the programme over the next three weeks will surely present the best of current West End talent.