Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London – until 17 October 2021
Guest reviewer: Emma Burnell
Originally reviewed at the White Bear Theatre, July 2021
Luck Be a Lady is a one-woman show (supported by two musicians) about three very familiar men, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Through the performing of some of their most iconic songs and the telling of their life stories, writer and performer Beth Burrows fascinates her audience even as she exposes some of the flaws of her subjects.
And boy, were they flawed. We kind of always knew this. But before the age of social media, you had to go looking for the back story of these men, and it was a lot easier to just lose yourself in their onscreen looks, wit and charm. I have a picture of Gene Kelly as my screensaver because he’s beautiful. I would not want to go out with him!
Burrows is an excellent singer and dancer, and the choreography of this one-woman show (by Marcus J Foreman) speaks to the different dancing styles of the three men while maintaining a sense of the performer herself. The multi-media use of interviews with the subjects and those who had known and loved them was illuminating and helped the time move faster, where the pressure on a single performer may have been too much in a show this length.
There were a few bum notes. Sometimes literally. Things wobbled a bit at times, and there were moments where things went a little off track. But overall these were rescued by the charm and sheer likeability of Burrows. Her interaction with the audience was well done – understated and yet real. The small space allowed her to make a lot of eye contact and that led to a sense of intimacy and even seduction that her subjects were clearly familiar with.
Overall, I came away from this production refreshed, happy and with a song in my heart. I enjoyed losing myself in a bygone era, while also agreeing with the thrust of the modern asides lobbed into the mix by Burrows. This is a fun, almost frothy show – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, at this time, it is precisely what the doctor ordered.