Live At Zedel, London
Janie Dee’s brief residency at Live At Zedel was a chance to glimpse a performance of understated excellence. A two-time Olivier winner – and just nominated for a third following her devastating turn as Phyllis in the National Theatre’s Follies – Dee drew her inspiration from across the spectrum of song in an enchanting yet eclectic set.
Glamorously clad in a leopard-print catsuit, diva Dee slipped into the low-lit venue purring a lyric from Sondheim’s ‘The Glamorous Life’, a nod to her Desiree in the concert productions of A Little Night Music that MD Alex Parker had staged in recent years. With a consummate confidence in scaling cabaret’s daunting fourth wall, Dee went on to work the room beautifully, her patter including throwaway references to having worked with the greats – and not just the likes of Sondheim and Lloyd Webber. Her recollection of a conversation with Harold Pinter reminded the packed room that Dee’s talent stretches way beyond musical theatre and into powerful, often dark, drama.
A fascinating chapter of the evening was Dee’s insight into years past that she’d romantically spent working in Italy. Singing two Italian numbers, what made the moment particularly charming was that as Dee regaled the room with tales of la dolce vita, Parker was gently, subtly and oh so sweetly picking out Ennio Morricone’s theme to Cinema Paradiso as she spoke.
It is always a treat to stumble unexpectedly across some Tom Lehrer and Dee made mouthwatering work of ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park’, relishing the American’s caustic satire. Elsewhere in the programme, her oldest childhood friend Kay Summers was in the Zedel audience celebrating her birthday and in an act of glorious warmth and appreciation, Dee invited Summers on stage to sing ABBA’s ‘Thank You For The Music’. The moment was both unpretentious and lovely as Dee, sat amongst the Zedel crowd, applauded her pal. Returning to the mic, Dee wrapped up the first half with a sensational nod to Follies, teasingly asking the audience ‘Could I Leave You?’
It wasn’t just established songs though. In a celebration of artistic inclusion Dee performed new writing from Tim Connor, from Parker (and his writing partner Katie Lam) as well as a composition from her local church organist. Her selections proving to be a breath of fresh (songwriting) air.
The evening’s highlight however was Dee’s return to A Little Night Music for a scorching take on Send In The Clowns. Well into the second half and now clad in an elegant black 2-piece outift, Dee gave an eleven o’clock rendering of the Sondheim classic that was as heartbreaking as it was spine-tingling.