Review – A Swell Party, Cadogan Hall

Sunday 10 August 2008

Showtunes fans only need read on… Nothing for anyone else here. Move along now…

The problem with owning an Ethel Merman’s Greatest Hits CD is that whenever you hear anyone else sing “Throwing a Ball Tonight” or “Make It Another Old Fashioned Please” you just think, “That’s not right”.

That was the main lesson taken away from last night’s A Swell Party at the Cadogan Hall. Of course, you can’t un-buy a CD and there is no known medical intervention which can remove Merman memories from the brain so think carefully before you purchase such a thing.

This “Celebration of the Life and Music of Cole Porter” had the whiff of David Kernan about it which turned out to be because DK had conceived it.

Distressingly it opened with Simon Green saying the words “I was born…” which suggested that it was going to be a very long evening indeed if Cole Porter was going to narrate his entire life to this level of detail.

Anyway, these excerpts were mercifully brief and there were plenty of opportunities for Maria Friedman, Daniel Evans, Mary Carewe and Graham Bickley (with MDs Jason Carr and David Firman on grand pianos) to show off.

The big ensemble numbers really needed an orchestra to make them fly; they just sounded like a rehearsal piece. What would have made a charming show in an intimate space such as the Donmar (where David Kernan’s Show People series was performed in the 80s) was somewhat lost in the converted church.

Still, there were some dazzlingly high points: Friedman’s “I Happen To Like New York” and “I Concentrate On You” were splendid.

But unexpectedly the evening was utterly stolen by Evans who produced two show-stopping performances – “Love For Sale” and an utterly exquisite rendition of “Begin The Beguine” which – embarrassingly – moved at least one of the Whingers to genuine tears of musical joy. Extraordinary. But embarrassing.  So we’ll stop there.

4 Responses to “Review – A Swell Party, Cadogan Hall”

  1. James Says:

    Probably the best performance of I happen to like New York I’ve heard MF give.
    DE just gets better and more confident each time (and to think he played Peter Pan the first time we saw him!)
    The sound on Saturday was a bit sharp and edgy, but improved in the (better) second half.
    Never been to Cadogan Hall before…beautiful venue/great seats…but the restaurants about there are a bit pricy..we got on the tube back to Victoria to eat (we’re common!)
    ……..looking forward even more to Piaf at the end of the month after your review.

  2. Trixie Says:

    Cadogen is lovely isn’t it. It reminded me of a synagogue.

    I found this quite dreary to be honest and I love Cole Porter’s music. I guess I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so stagey. Just stick De-Lovely on in the West End and be done with it!

  3. Mark I Says:

    @ Trixie – or Kiss Me Kate!


  4. Whingers – Moved to musical tears?! Well bravo, I must say!

    In 1992, I caught a version of “Swell Party” in Sydney at the Opera House (albeit in one of the underbelly theatres) and enjoyed it primarily because of Cole Porter’s music, which was way ahead of its time and remains some of the most intelligently written and even gorgeous music I’ve ever heard (“Night and Day” is my favorite tune of all time). The performances on the other hand were left wonting.

    But it sounds like you hit the motherlode in terms of performances with Maria Friedman and Daniel Evans. Wow!


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