Amanda McBroom Pizza on the Park, SW1
Clive Davis, The Times Of London
Cabaret singers need a touch of the thespian. They have, after all, no other props to fall back on apart from a piano, a micro-phone and a spotlight.
That demands that dreams and stories be woven from next to nothing. When all the elements come together, the results is a mysteriously intimate communion: when it fails, you are left with strangers listlessly staring into empty glasses in a bare room.
The Californian star Amanda McBroom possesses an actress’s ability to live a role… one of her earliest stage appearances was in the revue Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. What gives her shows an added dimension is her skill as a songwriter.
The Bette Midler power ballad The Rose remains her best-known creation, but Ship in a Bottle and Errol Flynn (a touching portrait of her father, film actor David Bruce) are sure to stand the test of time as well.
McBroom’s sets usually find room for a mixture of originals and standards. This time around she is concentrating almost entirely on her own compositions. That allowed room to savour a playful new work-in-progress, The Lift… dedicated to the virtues and vices of plastic surgery… and an accomplished ballad, Wherever You Are. The one interloper in the whole evening was Jacques Brel’s Marieke, delivered in Flemish and English, and sung with such intensity that it made you wish that McBroom would delve deeper into that songbook.
This was a marvelously assured display, aided and abetted by McBroom’s deft musical director and longtime song writing partner Michele Brourman. Brourman… who was making her London debut… surprised us all with her foxy singing voice at the close. (The pair intend to cook up tunes about sex and food in the late sets at the weekends.) The final impression, though, was of McBroom setting the microphone to one side on Ship in a Bottle. I cannot think of another contemporary ballad that has more to say about dreams deferred and the sands of time. Dry and acerbic McBroom has bags of humour to spare, but she can cast us into the shadows just as readily. Her residency runs until Saturday week.