Crazy Coqs, London
Shana Farr makes her UK debut at the Crazy Coqs and it is a wonder that it has taken this lady so long to cross the pond. In a show entitled Whistling Away The Dark, over the course of a far too fleeting hour and in an act that was for once truly a tribute, rather than a trotted out tribute act, over twenty or so songs she distilled and incredibly replicated the genius that is Julie Andrews.
Farr's performance, accompanied by Nathan Martin on piano who incredibly had only met her some 24 hours previously, was flawless. Just as a virtuoso musician can make their instrument come alive in their hands, so it is with Farr and her voice. Her greatest salute to Julie Andrews is that even with her American accent, she performs the Englishwoman's numbers with just the right amount of gusto and fragility as may be required, combined apparently with any other emotion that may be required in between.
Opening her act with a medley of favourites she then sang the little known but incredibly demanding Je Suis Titania. Explaining that the complex aria was in fact the song that Andrews, then un-discovered by Hollywood, sung to the then Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth at a London concert, her fine soprano voice soaring effortlessly, yet at all times remaining in her control, never once wobbling in tone, tempo or strength.
The Sound Of Music, Star and Cinderella were amongst the shows that Farr acknowledged, with A Spoonful of Sugar being the most delightful way to reference Mary Poppins. During Stay Awake, from the same movie, if one pretended not to and closed ones eyes, it could as easily have been Andrews herself singing, such was the fidelity of the performance.
Gems on the night, amongst a selection of sparkling arrangements, were Someone To Watch Over Me and I Could Have Danced All Night. Her final encore performance of Feed The Birds (her favourite, and apparently Walt Disney's too) was a fine and exquisite interpretation of a song that speaks to us all and is as pitiful as it is hopeful.
In recent years Tracie Bennett has won acclaim as a Brit emulating the all American Judy Garland. Farr gives the special cultural relationship between our two nations a mirrored spin with this, her distinct "Yank's take" on one of our very own national treasures. Her knowledge of Andrew's life is thorough and meticulously researched and if there is one criticism of the night, it is that occasionally her patter is too drawn out and too detailed. (“Whats that?” I hear you say, “ an American talking too much? Surely some mistake..") Farr does not need to justify her devotion to Andrews to a London audience or any other for that matter as her performance defines both her excellence and her credentials. For an evening of outstanding cabaret that is currently amongst the best to be found in town, head to the Crazy Coqs before her week's residence is up.
Until May 18th 2013