Jeff Harner brings his show of witty lyrics Does This Song Make Me Look Fat? to the Crazy Coqs. See review here.
Jeff Harnar, winner of many awards, including the 2012 Noel Coward Foundation Cabaret Award, 3 MAC Awards and 4 BISTRO Awards, is best known for his theme shows, and often seen at The Mabel Mercer Convention in New York.
It is five years since his last visit to London, when he presented a programme of American Songbook, and now he brings Does This Song Make Me Look Fat?, with all the customary wit the title implies.
Basically, the show is love songs– with a twist. The first section, a love-letter to New York, is quite gentle, embodying songs about that city quite often with alternate lyrics, not least from cabaret director Barry Kleinbort, and some nice work from On the Town.
The ever-reliable Nathan Martin on piano showed his fine voice in the Cole Porter section, but whilst the lyrics, both old and new, were sharp, the delivery remained fairly restrained.
The cheekiness was to follow with a medley from his parents’ ‘50’s record collection, taking the mickey at every opportunity, and infusing the Noel Coward material with real bitchiness.
But, the items that really caught the imagination were the delightfully unexpected and very funny inclusion of the surmised lyrics for Jimmy Durante in the1936 Broadway show Red, Hot and Blue, and an ingenious blending of Oklahoma! lyrics and Stephen Sondheim tunes – “Sunday in the Meadow with Curley” (Rick Crom). This medley, rendered scathingly acerbic, yet somehow still respectful to both genres of musical, was truly a standout piece.
Throughout all the crisp patter work, Harnar retained a polish and smoothness, interspersing a couple of beautiful ballads, including the lyrical “Sail Away” (Noel Coward) and a very well sung arrangement of “The World Goes Round” (Kander and Ebb) and “That’s Life” (Kay andGordon). Yet, never once did he slip over into the slickness that can alienate UK audiences. A well-crafted evening presented with deft delivery – a pleasure to see.
About Fiona Jane Weston
I am Fiona-Jane Weston and as well as being a performer myself (see website), I write reviews of and features on shows, mainly on the London cabaret and theatre scene.
I have worked in theatre for many years, but decided to embark on a new direction in cabaret in 2009, when I produced 20th Century Woman: The Compact Cabaret. Not wanting to neglect my love of spoken word, particularly drama and verse, I made the conscious decision to include these elements in the programme, as well as wonderful songs, to tell the story of women's changing status and preoccupations throughout the 20th Century and up to now.
I was invited to audition for the renowned Cabaret Conference at Yale, run by the late legendary Erv Raible, and that was thrilled to be one of only 26 accepted that year, where I was taught by the masters of the genre. Amanda McBroom (composer of the Bette Middler hit "The Rose" and the poignant "Errol Flynn"), Laurel Massé, original member of Manhattan Transfer, Sally Mayes, Tony Award nominees Sharon McNight and Tovah Feldshuh, and New York cabaret veteran Julie Wilson were all on the faculty. We were also treated to the musical direction of Alex Rybeck, Hubert Tex Arnold and the now late Paul Trueblood.
With the benefit of their insightful teaching and great encouragement, I took my show to The Duplex in New York, where I was delighted with the response.
Since then, I have produced Loving London: The Capital Cabaret, using the same format of songs, poetry and drama, in various London venues, including Leicester Square Theatre and The Crazy Coqs.
2014, the centenary of World War 1, saw the launch of Wartime Women: the Khaki Cabaret to a sellout house at St. James Theatre, London, garnering great notices, including from The Times and Musical Theatre Review. I have since been touring the show to Belgium and throughout the UK.
I hope these reviews and interviews entertain and educate at the same time, and if please do leave comments in the box. It's great to engage in a conversation about the Arts.
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