Natalie Douglas: The Nat Pack: Sammy & Nat & Stevie & Joe

Natalie Douglas

Natalie Douglas is appearing in London once more at the Crazy Coqs with a new show written especially for the occasion.  Together with her Musical Director Mark Hartman, of Broadway’s Avenue Q & Sondheim on Sondheim, have created a program of song honouring the extraordinary talents of Sammy Davis, Jr., Nat “King” Cole, Stevie Wonder & Joe Williams.

Opening with a sultry version of For Once In my Life, she sets the tone for the evening – subtle, from the heart and sophisticated. We are treated to works from amongst others Billy Strayhorn, Stevie Wonder, and Irving Gordon, sprinkled with histories of the songs themselves, Natalie’s personal relationship to them and how her parents’ eclectic tastes shaped her knowledge and appreciation of this collection.

I have written several times about Natalie Douglas, and each show she does is exemplary, not only of the particular genre or artist she is paying tribute to, but in terms of artistry. She has the voice to raise the roof off any venue, but this is never used gratuitously or simply to display her prowess. There is always a narrative or artistic choice behind its employment.

This show is no exception. One example is her rendition of Mr Bojangles. Understated for the most part, and all the more powerful for it, one could feel the collective emotion of the audience welling up.

Natalie is from a political family, is comfortable with the topic without bombast, always with a dash of humour, and helps the contemporary audience appreciate the role a particular song may have played in American history. Searingly, she used Stevie Wonder’s You Haven’t Done Nothin’ – his attack on Nixon and Watergate – to make her own commentary on Donald Trump and the current election.

Interestingly, two songs that she treated us to, Gonna Build a Mountain and Once in a Lifetime came from British artists Leslie Bicusse and Anthony Newley.  Bricusse is an English composer, lyricist, and playwright, most prominently working in musicals and film theme songs, and Newley was the English actor, singer and songwriter he very often collaborated with, most notably on Stop the World, I Want to Get Off.

She saved the best till last, however.  Ol Man River was her encore, with sublime accompaniment by Mark Hartman, and brought the house down.

 

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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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