“The little dark star in the wind down there…”
Though she’s yet to pop her head over this side of the ocean, I’m pretty sure Annaleigh Ashford is an absolute darling. It’s part of the legacy of playing Lauren in Kinky Boots I think, such a lovable part and what I’ve seen and heard of her since has only confirmed that for me. Her acclaimed cabaret performances also won over new audiences, resulted in a live recording of ‘Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below’ being released late last year.
Supported by the superb musicianship of Will Van Dyke and The Whiskey 5, Ashford is an effortlessly delightful performer, whether ripping through the vocal splendour of Dreamgirls‘ ‘One Night Only’ or a Donna Summer medley, nodding to Studio 54’s illustrious past. There’s actually a lot of pop on here, The Everly Brothers’ ‘Love Hurts’, Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ mixed with Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’
Live recordings always have to tread a careful path of replicating the atmosphere of a live show whilst acknowledging that not everything will always translate. Such it is with an audience participation version of Alanis Morissette’s ‘Hand In My Pocket’ which doubtless was great fun to be part of, but which quickly loses its charm here. And as lovely her solo trip through Wicked’s ‘For Good’ is, it feels like a muted mis-step so late in the programme.
But I’m just being picky, for when Ashford is good, she is just superb. The medley of Sondheim’s ‘Another Hundred People’ and Elton John’s ‘Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters’ is tenderly perfect, the treatment of ‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’ with an interpolation of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ is exquisite, and Kurt Weill’s delicate ‘Lost in the Stars’ is a subtle yet impassioned ending. Someone cast her in something in the UK please (or bring over her Sunday in the Park with George with the delectable Jake Gyllenhaal).