French actress, dancer and singer Liliane Montevecchi is appearing once again at The Crazy Coqs with her show telling the story of her life from her days as a Prima Ballerina to Hollywood and Broadway.
Beginning in Roland Petit’s Ballets de Paris, Montevecchi went on to a film career in Hollywood and later The Folies Bergère, though she never appeared naked. She “had too much talent for that!”, she asserts. But, she is perhaps best known now for her roles in Grand Hotel, for which she was nominated Best Actress in a Musical , and Tommy Tune’s Nine, garnering her Tony and Drama Desk Awards .
Now 83, Ms. Montevecchi remains as slim, feline and, truthfully, nearly as lithe as in her younger days. With enormous presence, she slinks on to the stage gesturing with hands and long fingers she employs like delicate, expressive instruments. At one point, she does a ballet barre lifting her leg high on to the piano, and does a full port de bras (long low bow to the floor).
Although she did a dance routine with Fred Astaire (sadly cut from the film) and had fun going duck hunting with Clarke Gable, Ms. Montevecchi did not really enjoy making films, preferring the immediate contact with an audience – so, she is ideally suited to the intimacy of cabaret.
She had the privilege of knowing legendary French cabaret artists, such as Josephine Baker, Édith Piaf and Mistinguett (a cutlery thief, apparently!), and pays homage to them with a medley of their songs. The first set of the show also includes some standout material, namely the saucy I Never Do Anything Twice, a sensitively sung Les Feuilles Mortes and a rarely heard Cole Porter song Si Vous Aimez Les Poitrines.
Her deep-throated husky voice with French accent still beguiles her audience as much as her feline fascinating movement. Slithering through the audience singing Je Cherche Un Millionaire, she later invites a man to join her on stage to dance in Newfangled Tango.
Whilst her self-deprecating wit and comic timing are impeccable, I found her ballads the most mesmerising, notably Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Irma La Douce (which she played on Broadway). Ably accompanied by Nathan Martin, musically, her medleys work well as story-telling devices, flowing seamlessly and hardly appearing to be medleys at all.
Ms. Montevecchi went on to describe the extraordinary good fortune she had to win her most recent roles on Broadway, her singular audition, and concluded the evening with Bonjour Amour from Grand Hotel and Follies Bergere from Nine.
A star not to be missed.