An American in London
Crazy Coqs cabaret at Brasserie Zedel, Piccadilly Circus, LondonReviewed by Jarlath O’Connell
Amanda McBroom is a different kind of triple threat – she can write, she can sing and she can entertain and this is not always the case with great songwriters. Her recent week at the Art Deco splendour of Brasserie Zedel was an object lesson in the art of cabaret. It doesn’t have to be “a woman in a frock singing the Great American Songbook” as someone once dismissed the format to me. Instead, she demonstrated that cabaret is a vibrant art form, not as easy as it appears for it requires being able to give of yourself in the songs you sing and in how you talk to an audience. You need to be able to talk and in an intimate room if you come over all phoney it sticks out a mile.
Probably best known as the composer of the The Rose a huge international hit for Bette Midler, McBroom is a writers’ writer and her work has been recorded by a wide range of artists who’ve rightly connected with her simple melodies and the down to earth directness of her lyrics.
Ably accompanied on the piano by her long time collaborator, the superb Michele Brourman, she presented a perfectly balanced programme of her own work, of standards and some new discoveries.
She slowed down Porter’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin and revealed the heartfelt anguish beneath the flippancy. Her own Old Love was a sweetly tuneful tale and telling a story in lyrics is what she excels at. Of Melody Gardot’s If The Stars Were Mine she commented: You can tell she’s young, she writes in pastels. It takes a long time to write in red.
The Twelfth of Never recalled her slow dancing at the Senior Prom to Johnny Mathis, an early obsession for this stage struck gal from Mercedes, Texas. When she finally escaped she ended up in San Francisco and after being blown away by the stage show Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well… she ended up not just in the show but eventually married to her leading man.
Her tribute to Brel included an entrancing Ne Me Quitte Pas and what a relief to hear someone who understands that that song never meant If You Go Away, but rather Don’t Leave Me Now, which is something else entirely. Her Marieke was also fearless and in Flemish.
As well as The Rose she gave us one of her most exquisite creations Errol Flynn an almost unbearably poignant memento of her father, David Bruce, who was a Hollywood bit player who always got credited a few names below Errol Flynn. Being totally personal and yet universal it’s a song that could get tears out of a stone.
It’s been 12 years since she was last in London and the doyenne of the Crazy Coqs, Ruth Leon, must be applauded for getting her back. Ruth is on a one-woman mission to enrich our lives with great cabaret performances and long may her venture continue.