Thursday 22 January 2015

Brent Barrett's Life Is - The Songs Of Kander & Ebb - Review

Crazy Coqs, London


Brent Barrett

A year after his debut appearance at Crazy Coqs, Brent Barrett is back. The singer's affection for the work of Kander and Ebb forms the basis of his set, with his longstanding close relationship with the songwriters clearly evident. Barrett has the qualities of both Broadway performer and Vegas showman, but he also offered heard some charming anecdotes about growing up in rural Kansas from where John Kander hailed too. A supremely comfortable performer, Barrett’s patter throughout the gig reflected the many aspects both of his professional life in theatre (he has played Chicago’s Billy Flynn on and off for 16 years) and his personal life where as a gay man, he touchingly reflected as to how "I never thought I’d be able to get married and have a wedding list at Bloomingdales”

His title song and opening number Life Is, was from the little known musical Zorba. The show premiered on Broadway almost fifty years ago, yet Barrett nevertheless made it sound fresh and vibrant. That his next song, Cabaret's Wilkommen, came from a score that had garnered both Oscar and Tony success only highlighted the remarkable achievements of Kander & Ebb. With a nod to The Scottsboro Boys, (currently playing at London's Garrick Theatre, in a production that Kander has proclaimed definitive) Barrett's Commencing In Chattanooga offered a stylish yet subtly different interpretation of the number to that of Susan Stroman's stage show. And as for Chicago? Well, Barrett’s evening wouldn’t have been complete without All That Jazz, whilst his take on New York, New York sealed the Kander & Ebb reputation for having written some of the biggest songs out there.

During his 70 minute routine, accompanied throughout by musical director Christopher Denny, the intimate ambience of the Crazy Coqs is such that one feels as though Barrett, with his shiny suit, perfect hair and film-star looks, is offering a personal serenade – indeed, truly personal for the one lucky lady who danced with the star as he sang to her! Here for one week only, Barrett’s residency truly is a classy cabaret.

Brent Barrett performs until 24th January 2015

Guest reviewer: Louisa Shulman

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