Amanda McBroom is sexy, funny and deeply moving at The Crazy Coqs. Her own compositions, which include the huge Bette Midler hit ‘The Rose’ and ‘Errol Flynn’ are both heart-felt and profound. Read my full review here.
There is something very sophisticated and grown –up about Amanda McBroom – a deep sexuality that has nothing to do with overt display or girlish flirtatiousness. Rather this is elegant, restrained refinement – and all the more exciting and enticing for it. She is also huge fun!
From a lively opening at The Crazy Coqs with the title song ‘Let’s Fall in Love’ (Harold Arlen), she moved into the steamy self-penned ‘Hot in Here’. She has great stage presence – a still, sexiness, drawing us to her and playing with the audience.
Later in the programme she has a little dig at modern songwriting, but nevertheless wanted to share with us a recent discovery in ‘If the Stars Were Mine’, a charming song by young American artist Melody Gardot.
Afterwards, Amanda remarks that Gardot’s youth causes her to “write in pastel..it takes a lot of time and a lot of miles to write in red”. Her rendition of one of David Cantor’s ‘red’ songs ‘Flexible Girl’ fairly brought the house down.
Special mention must be made here of her long-standing pianist and Musical Director Michele Brourman, contributing unobtrusive elegant playing, and who collaborated with the song-writing on ‘Hot in Here’ and ‘Titania’ – a very amusing song written for Amanda’s musical theatre piece ‘ Lady Macbeth Sings the Blues’. She sang us a number she had written, not with Amanda but Karen Gottlieb – ‘My Favourite Year’, which has been recorded by Dame Cleo Laine and Michael Feinstein among others.
Two further standout numbers on the programme are the delightful narrative ballad ‘Old Love’ (also co-written by Amanda and Michele) and the achingly sad ‘Dance’ about a period of marital discord. Amanda did assure us afterwards that she and her husband are still together and are about to celebrate a big anniversary.
Back in the ‘70’s, she discovered Jacques Brel and appeared in the Off- Broadway show ‘Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris’. His “angry, passionate, adult, intelligent” approach to song inspired Amanda to write herself. She has become a renowned interpreter of his work, translating it and de-sanitizing it from some of the more well-known English language versions. Her portrayal of ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ is visceral, guttural and delivered with profound need. Famed for her contralto voice, she is equally captivating in her upper register, particularly in Brel’s ‘Marieke’, another of his powerful laments on loss.
Of course, her most famous songs ‘The Rose’ and ‘Errol Flynn’ could not be left out. In an age when contemporary music followers demand a continuous driving beat or sentimental love songs, these ballads demand attention to the words.
‘Errol Flynn’, about her actor father in 1930’s and ‘40’s films, is evocative of an era long gone, pointing out the strangeness of seeing him ‘alive’ again on screen when she herself is older than he was at the time. It is a recognition of his straying ways and faults, as well as his talent and their strained love for each other, typical of Amanda’s refusal to shy away from the complications of life and relationships. In writing and learning about him, she is also writing and learning about herself –and somehow we join in that process.
In an evening perfectly balanced with humour, sassiness and heart-felt emotion, her performance and songs display an assured, eloquent poise. It is high time she was better known here – go and see her. You won’t be disappointed.