The Crazy Coqs
Twenty-four songs in eighty minutes - enough to fill two albums and sung without a break except for some wry asides and jokes at her own expense. Liz Robertson is a class act.
She may not be a star in the Streisand league (she does a delicious take on Barbra attempting to record "Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here" by Lerner and Lane – “Barbra, you’re singing to those plants like they were anti-Semitic” is the comment from Lerner), but she has an arresting vocal quality and a list of credits that any actress/singer would die for.
She gaily admits that we are going to hear quite a lot of Alan Jay Lerner, the “Shakespeare of lyricists”. But then if you have been married to him you probably get to love his lyrics more than most. She tells us that he used to write songs standing up at a high table because he was afraid of falling asleep looking at the same words over and over again. He was a perfectionist, and would sometimes take weeks or months to get a line just right.
This is a neat link into another story about how a cab driver initially mistook Mr Lerner for Sammy Davis Jnr – not that this is a ‘showbiz’ name-dropping exercise. Miss Robertson is firmly grounded in the real world and has no need to impress with celebrity tales. She gives us several Cole Porter songs, some Rodgers and Hammerstein and just one Noel Coward ("Nina"), one Sondheim ("Putting It Together") and one Don Black/Lloyd Webber number, all performed with great charm. The last, in particular, "Tell Me On A Sunday", is delivered with a stillness of restrained emotion that rings completely true.
Two-thirds of the way through the performance, she has the courage to give us a re-run of her audition for the London production of I Love My Wife for Cy Coleman. It’s excruciating in the best possible sense, and it won her the part.
Liz Robertson is no Broadway belter – her forte is the clear and plaintive rendition of precise and tender feelings, as in "Too Late Now" by Lerner and Lane and "Concentrate On You" by Cole Porter. The closest she comes to what Elaine Paige would call a “big ballad” is her song from the show that Lerner wrote for her, and which lasted just one performance on Broadway, "Another Life" from Dance A Little Closer.
This builds to a thrilling climax, and shows that she can be a truly gutsy singer when she wants to be, but for this writer the highlight of the show (apart from "Tell Me On A Sunday") is "Old Friend" by Cryer and Ford, from the musical I’m Getting My Act Together… This has a simplicity and emotional depth that suits her voice to perfection.
She is very ably accompanied by Chris Walker on piano, who joins in gamely in "How Could You Believe Me?" by Lerner and Lane. This is a very accomplished evening, and definitely one for musical theatre aficionados.