Stefan Bednarczyk: Beyond a Joke

Known for his solo shows of Noel Coward and Flanders & Swann, Stefan Bednarczyk is back at The Crazy Coqs performing his new show, “BEYOND A JOKE”.

He says he now focuses on ‘the rest of his education’, and some of the other influences on his development during his early teens, many of whom had records “Humour” section of his local record shop in the 1970’s.

Opening with a nice unexpected take on Second Hand Rose, the tone of surprise and wit is set for the evening.

Apparently, Tom Lehrer had a theory that folk songs were particularly atrocious because they were written by the people, and had they been written by professional songwriters, they would have had far more merit. Bednarczyk goes on to display his versatility in taking the song My Darling Clementine to render each verse in the styles of Cole Porter, Mozart, jazz and Gilbert &Sullivan.

Gershwin’s music is featured, but the evening is largely given over to Allan Sherman, the political parodies of Tom Lehrer, whose songs are almost shockingly relevant today, even though many were written in the 1950’s and ‘60’s, and the keenly observed social commentary of the far less renowned Jake Thackeray.

Thackeray was a Yorkshireman, with a humour as black and dry as dust, whose cannon deserves to be much better known.  As Bednarczyk himself says, the narratives run like a one-act play, the lyrics of which are quite often somewhat rude e.g. Beware the Bull and the sardonic yet tender Lah-Di-Dah.

For Lehrer lovers, we were treated to his Masochism Tango, Vatican Rag written in response to Vatican ll) and the wonderfully witty Oedipus Rex.  There were also songs from Alan Plater’s Close the Coal House Door, composed by Alex Glasgow aka the Bard of Tyneside. This part included one of my favourites of the night, As Soon As This Pub Closes.

Bednarczyk would be the first to admit his voice, whilst enjoyable and flexible, is not the strongest in the business, and he confessed to feeling a little ‘second nighty’ the evening I saw him, but his performances are always highly engaging and a lesson in lyric delivery – sharp, pinpointed with crisp articulation with a light or biting touch, as the situation demands. And all with immensely skillful, atmospheric and at times virtuoso self-accompaniment on the piano.

If these vicious lyrics were his early influences, he must indeed be a bit twisted!  A delight, as ever.

Fiona-Jane Weston

 

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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. Fiona-Jane Weston
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