Miss Hope Springs– greatly successful act appears weekly at The Crazy Coqs
“..a whole persona..sheer volume of original material..sophisticated..”
Son of actor Lionel Jeffries (Camelot, worked with Peter Sellers, director of The Railway Children) and actress Eileen Walsh, Ty grew up surrounded by artists of every genre (Fred Astaire and Danny La Rue were family friends), and steeped in the music of Gershwin, Porter et al., was exposed to examples everywhere of great artistic quality. Watching double-bills of films on TV with female icons such as Peggy Lee and Judy Garland, he was not only in awe of them, but absorbed their styles.
He received success relatively early, landing his first publishing contract at the age of 14, and later studied at the Purcell School of Music. Then, things plateau’d. There were no big hits, and like many a cabaret artist, earned his living singing in restaurants and hotels.
The birth of Miss Hope Springs was just 3 years ago, first launched at the Brighton Fringe, then winning Best Cabaret Award in 2011. It took the patronage, and faith, of restaurateur Jeremy King to give him the platform at Crazy Coqs to really develop both the character and act.
It is difficult to define the show, as to call it ‘drag’ is to mislead, and diminish it. Miss Hope Springs is a whole persona, who just happens to be female, developed as a vehicle through which the songs originate and are developed. She has a backstory, family and is a flamboyant old school Las Vegas style trouper seeking success, love and happiness- echoing Jeffries’ own Journey, and a bit like the rest of us, though larger than life and with more edge.
The show features neither covers nor lip-synch, but every song is penned by Jeffries himself in styles ranging from pop to swing and Latin. Part of what is remarkable about this artist is the sheer volume of original material he is able to produce.
Opening with lots of razzmatazz- Dusty Springfield-esque glamorous blonde wig, eyelashes, spangley costume etc, the atmosphere is set for the evening. Rather than relying on the use of ‘tricks’ and sharp put downs of difficult audience members, Miss Hope Springs remains quite soft-spoken and respectful and several of the songs reflect this more sensitive side, not least two ballads –“She’s His World” on unrequited love, and the affecting “Carnival” on loneliness and loss of identity.
Other standout numbers are “Girl In A Million” and “Funny How things Work Out”.
Every 3-4 months there is a change of programme, and the most recent is a Latin show. Throughout August, a different guest artist appears each week, and this was the turn of David Benson (currently appearing in One Man, Two Guv’nors at Theatre Royal Haymarket), who made a surprise entrance in Act 1 before being introduced and joined Jeffries again in Act 2, singing a fun vaudeville number written especially for him, complete with straw boater and plenty of showmanship.
The songs are not simply amusing ditties, though some are, but musically sophisticated pieces with good structure and carefully worked into the arc of the programme. The jokes are well timed, and the music is appropriately sung and not over-produced for the genre.
Jeffries accompanies himself on piano with skill, as well as being ably backed by Nigel Thomas on bass and Mark Aliss on percussion.
Over the months Jeffries has held this residency, the show has built up and sustained a loyal audience with houses regularly selling out, and with repeat audiences who are starting to know the songs well enough to sing them, rendering them almost standards.
The Miss Hope Springs character and show are growing both artistically and in popularity. Listening to the CD recorded some time ago, before the current show was developed, the growth in artistry and sophistication becomes particularly evident- well balanced and entertaining though the CD is. The success of the whole act is well deserved.