This review was first published in The Public Reviews
With a handful of professional colleagues together with a sprinkling of 3rd year students from Mountview combining to form his troupe of vocalists, George Dyer played to a packed out Pheasantry, in an evening of cabaret that comprised mainly lesser known numbers from the musical theatre canon. The show was produced by Speckulation, a company who encouragingly are as committed to supporting young and emerging talent as they are to showcasing the giants of the West End and Broadway.
In a mis-judged choice, Dyer handed the opening number, Arlen and Harburg’s Down With Love to a student who initially struggled with a confident delivery. The song is tough and bears a proud history of having been mastered by both Garland and Streisand in their pomp, so it was perhaps unfair of Dyer/Speckulation to hand such an icebreaker to a novice, performing in front of what was always going to be a critical and discerning (albeit warmly supportive) audience.
Ashleigh Gray was next up with a quirky number, Greta and her consummate professionalism and experience provided a re-assuring note of quality to the night’s singing. Gray gave several further songs through the set, including a simply spine-tingling Not A Day Goes By and quite why this woman has not commanded major recent London roles is a puzzle as she has a voice and presence that is amongst the finest of her generation.
As the show warmed up, so did the student contribution with Maggie Lynne singing an exquisitely delicate Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye prior to Rebecca Brierley’s I’ll Be Here from the chamber musical Ordinary Days, a song of desperate poignancy and sadness but also hope. The number demanded immense and precise acting throughout and Brierley captured the fragility of the melody perfectly. Another Mountview treat was Bronté Barbé’s act 2 opener, Los Penguinos, a novel song about penguins, that included their squawking. Impressively, Barbé got the guttural comedy and the swift reversion to lyrics, spot on. Act 2 got even better with Frances Mayli McCann’s Raven, this talented young professional again delivering a vocal performance of perfection to match that of Dyer at his piano.
And George Dyer evidently is an exceptionally cool, handsome and (to use the modern parlance) sickeningly talented young musician who deservedly commands the respect of his actors and students alike. With Stuart Ness on bass and Sam Edwards on drums, the musical content of the evening was faultless. Perhaps though, this skilled MD is still too young to merit hosting a cabaret night of his own. Some of his patter was witty and revealing, but too much of his dialog centered upon childish jokes and a much repeated curiosity about the Jewish provenance of musical compositions. Appearing in London right now is Lorna Luft, Judy Garland’s younger daughter. Whilst Luft’s voice is (only close to) wonderful and not quite pitch-perfect, her anecdotes are sublime and one could listen to her tales all night. Today’s younger performers would do well to pitch up and learn from Luft that a sparkling cabaret is more than just songs sung superbly. However gifted the star of the show may be, their audience expects to be respected rather than patronised and their repartee should sparkle as much as the songs and music.