Director: Barry Kleinbort
One of London’s most intimate venues, the Crazy Coqs in the Zedel Brasserie may be closed but it too has joined the online streaming frenzy, adding a number of its filmed cabaret performances to its Stay at Home with Crazy Coqs YouTube Channel. The latest of these is Lorna Dallas: Home Again first performed and captured in July 2017 when the American soprano returned from a 20-year hiatus from cabaret performance.
The proximity of the camerawork is almost like being there, sitting at one of the cabaret tables piled in by the stage – it is almost enough to make you feel nostalgic for a couple of months ago when that was still possible. And nostalgia seems to be a theme in Lorna Dallas’ show as she reflects on the songs, stories and people she has loved during her illustrious career.
Across just 75-minutes, Dallas develops a delightful rapport with the viewer, her personality and willingness to share the good times and the bad soon commands the room as her velvety vocals sing a selection of tunes from the musicals. All of this peppered with some wonderful insights, her devotion to her late husband, which adds a tinge of melancholy to the love songs, her enthusiasm for the work of creatives from Jeremy Hermann to Barry Kleinbord and her devotion to pianist and collaborator Jason Carr.
One of the loveliest anecdotes involves showing love letters between Dallas and her husband to friend and fellow performer Amanda McBroom who was so inspired she incorporated them into a song, and when Dallas speaks of it, she is clearly moved and still touched. She moves on to sing Irving Berlin’s How Deep is the Ocean, Younger Than Springtime from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific and concludes with Ivor Novello’s My Life Belongs to You and there is a lingering memory of happier times in her emotive performance.
Novello is a particular favourite of Dallas who captures every nuance of Waltz of My Heart with its soaring melody and rapid, bouncy swell. It requires an incredible range across the scales at quite a swift pace, while Dallas adds a lovely trill on the longer notes. She also admires Andrew Lloyd Webber, opening with Norma Desmond’s determined tune from Sunset Boulevard, As If We Never Said Goodbye performed in a melody with Back in Business by Stephen Sondheim, while later she duets with Carr for the first time in their three decade collaboration on the Follies number You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow.
Dallas’s eclectic musical mix is reflected in the performance vocals, combining her operatic training with semi-spoken segments, crooner tones and classic musical theatre delivery. Some of her more famous associations she saves until the end, with memories of singing Jerry Herman’s numbers in Hello Dolly! as well as Showboat which brought her to the UK for nearly 900 performances in a single run, from which Dallas sings the enchanting Nobody Else but Me.
The Crazy Coqs space is so small that only two fixed cameras – one straight on and the other capturing side shots – are possible, and while occasionally waiters walk across the screen delivering drinks, very little can break the spell Dallas casts. There is such sincerity in her performance that you will long for the day when we can be in this room again, but for now this filmed programme is a pretty nice substitute.