Every cloud has a silver lining but the lining of the cloud of microscopic basalt ash particles emitted from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano was pure gold.
For thanks to being “stranded” in new York (with Virgin Atlantic picking up their accommodation and meal costs) the Whingers found themselves invited to dine at the very posh Café Carlyle and take in the entertainment provided by someone called Elaine Stritch.The Café Carlyle is tiny – probably about the same size as London’s Pizza On the Park but that’s where the similarity ends. The Carlyle is situated on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and is really posh. Men have to wear a jacket (although strangely it seems not to matter if the jacket isn’t very nice). It’s one of those places with a somewhat bewildering hierarchy of waiters in different coloured jackets. The Whingers were quite out of their depth.
And yet, once Ms Stritch joined her six-piece band on the tiny stage to give us Elaine Stritch Singin’ Sondheim. . . One Song At A Time we were somehow immediately at home. Almost literally given that we were one table away from Johnny Fox and two away from Mark Shenton.
Afterwards, everyone agreed that her performance was nothing short of astonishing. It’s impossible to believe that Stritchy is 84 years old – she grabbed every Sondheim song by its lapels and shook it around so that you heard every one afresh from her impish opening number, “I Feel Pretty” through “Broadway Baby” to the closing number “You Are the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” from Road Show. She even managed to make a song from Anyone Can Whistle sound like a masterpiece – “A Parade In Town” was wonderful. She even delivered “Every Day A Little Death” as a poem.
And despite this being the third “Send In The Clowns” that we’ve heard this week, it was like hearing it for the first time. And, of course, she delighted the crowd with her sardonic, belting delivery of “The Ladies Who Lunch”.
The orchestrations were perfect, the delivery sublime and the whole thing interspersed with informal, occasionally slightly rambling, anecdotes.
We could get distracted into whinging BIG TIME about the horrible, horrible, talkative audience who occasionally shouted out “Yeah” in agreement. One particularly noisome man’s heckle was smartly stamped upon with a sharp retort from Stritchy and he made no further interruptions.
But none of these vile people could dent Stritchy’s mastery of the evening. The woman is unique, indomitable and the Whingers are slightly humbled to have seen her at such close quarters. Amazing.
100%. For once entirely deserved.