Sunday 14th October 2012
Lauderdale House has been on our radar for some time. This little known 16th century manor house regularly hosts seasons of jazz, classical and cabaret but until now we had somehow failed to get organised to attend. So when we heard that their new cabaret season was to begin with a performance by Laura Pitt-Pulford, who impressed us in Sunset Boulevard (her West End debut) and more recently in Mack and Mabel at the Southwark Playhouse, we felt that this was too good an opportunity to miss. Not only did it afford us the opportunity to see Laura (even more) close up, but we found ourselves sitting next to her parents.
The evening was hosted by the warmly eccentric Valerie Cutko, who welcomed us with a specially tailored version of ‘Making Whoopee’, before introducing us to the first performer, (or support act) Daniel Robinson, who claimed to be a ‘cabaret virgin’, though his engaging patter would suggest he is actually quite an old……..hand. Fresh from performing in the ‘Mystery of Edwin Drood’ at the Arts Theatre, he had an entertaining set, refreshingly eclectic, and well deserving of the theme ‘Daniel’s pic and mix cabaret’. With an elaborate façade of randomness , he put all his songs into a pic and mix bag so that the audience chose the running order (although as inspector Clouseau might have said ”I poot it to you Monsieur Robinson that those pieces of peeper were blonk”). Highlights included ‘And they’re off’ from William Finn’s ‘A New Brain’, ‘Close Every Door’, in which we were proud to participate in the chorus as the children of Israel, ‘Nice work if you can get it’, and a big finish with the title track from Martin Guerre, which we were informed is the de rigueur audition song for ‘Les Miserables’. All the while he regaled us with anecdotes, such as being unaware he would have to sing in French after landing a role in ‘Piaf’ (‘I thought only Edith had to do that’).
Laura Pitt-Pulford began her set by generously performing a little known song by her musical director Christopher Hamilton, from his new musical ‘Melody Towers’, based on the Enid Blyton ‘Mallory Towers’ series. It’s a shame he hasn’t managed to provide any information about it on his website, so it will just have to stay little known (by us anyway). We were also treated to another song from the same musical ‘As Good As New’, about the perfect father traumatised in the war. As we might have expected, we were treated to a wide range of songs, and guests too.
Robbie Scotcher joined her for a rendition of ‘Too much in love to care’ from Sunset Boulevard (in which she made her west end debut as Betty Schaeffer). Scotcher was Sky Masterson to her Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, and this gave us an anecdote about going on stage with a severe bout of food poisoning whilst on tour, giving his feed line ‘How do you feel?’ a new sense of irony as she went into a highly amusing (and literally gut-wrenching) rendition of ‘If I were a bell’ – an image which will remain with us for some time.
Also singing with her was Shimmi Goodman for the moving duet ‘All the wasted years’ from Parade (one of her performances which got away from us!) Her last guest was Tom Coles, singer, actor and musician who appeared with her in Sunset Boulevard , accompanying her on the saxophone as she embarked on a Jerry Herman tribute consisting of a nicely simmering ‘Before the Parade Passes By’, and a clever segue to ‘Time heals everything’ from Mack and Mabel. Whilst we don’t want to criticise, we would argue that tribute should have more than two songs, but quite frankly, she can sing whatever she likes – we’ll be happy.
This cabaret evening showcased perfectly the reasons Laura Pitt-Pulford has thus far enjoyed so much success – her singing ability is of the highest order, but it is her emotional range which sets her apart from many performers, moving effortlessly between comedy, wit, pathos and passion and always keeping a connection with the audience. In between the music we heard how her schoolteacher had scoffed at her desire to be an actress – a lead up to the Stiles and Drewe number ‘Nobody’ – and she certainly seems to have been vindicated now. We were told that the cabaret room was once the home of Nell Gwynne, actress and mistress to Charles the Second. She was by all accounts a trouper, and we are sure she would have recognised another.