Theatre, Musicals & Concerts – Views & Reviews
On the stairwell of St James Studio after last month’s Sondheim: Women concert we were lucky enough to bump into Hannah Waddingham again, one of our favourite performers. She asked if we would be coming to this solo concert, and we explained that we’d been thinking about it but that it was on the day of our one year anniversary – she wasn’t taking any excuses and said it would be the only way to celebrate! Having missed her much celebrated concert at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2010, we didn’t take much convincing and were certainly rewarded with this night of high glamour and swing.
She took to the stage in a gorgeous red sequinned dress and killer heels with storming renditions of Joe Tex’s Show Me and swing standard The Best Is Yet To Come, hitting the high notes with so much gusto that her David Morris earrings refused to stay put. Everything about her exudes control – after a typically British quiet response to her greeting, she sarcastically apologized for dragging us all away from Downton Abbey, and on being told that her microphone wasn’t loud enough she insisted on repeating the song – “Well if you’ve paid for me, you might as well hear me!”.
Although Hannah has achieved great success in musical theatre with leading roles in A Little Night Music, Into The Woods, Kiss Me, Kate! and The Wizard of Oz, she explained that she would rather sing the songs she listens to on her iPod than run through ‘hits’ from her shows; and that she wanted to lay claim to some of the Great American Songbook tunes that are usually sung by men and more associated with the likes of Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.
Throughout the evening her choices showcased her incredible vocal and emotional range, from soft and tender with Etta James’s At Last, Barbra Streisand’s Clopin-Clopant, and Nina Simone’s He Needs Me to brassy humorous numbers like Stuff Like That There and Rough & Ready Man.
To end the first half, Hannah was joined by Pat Davey and Scott Baker of The Fabulous Lounge Swingers for their swing arrangement of Madonna’s Hung Up which, although it sounds peculiar on paper, worked so well that it verged on jaw dropping.
Backing vocals were provided by her fellow Sondheim: Women Eleanor McPhee & Stacey Ghent, and Oliver Tompsett on a night off from We Will Rock You. Musical Director (“and drinking partner”) Chris Walker led a superb 7-piece band, their short rendition of Benny Goodman’s Sing Sing Sing introducing the second half as Hannah rejoined them in a blue dress even more sparkling than the red. Her performance was equally dazzling, from Fergie’s anthemic Finally to saucily tropical renditions of In These Shoes and Mambo Italiano, and Bobby Darin’s swing infused version of Don’t Rain On My Parade.
Continuing the showcase of diversity in her voice and performance, we were treated to an emotional The Man That Got Away; a rockabilly Alright, Ok, You Win; and Chris Walker’s swing interpretation of Michael Jackson’s Thriller – again, on paper it sounds ridiculous, but in execution it works so well.
Despite generally avoiding musical theatre in her choices, thankfully Hannah gave us her Send In The Clowns as an encore – a song that she has made her own to my ears, and that she confessed is often difficult to get through due to its significance in her career and personal life.
We were certainly pleased that we decided to spend our anniversary at this massively entertaining concert, made all the more perfect when to our delight she gave us a shout-out and wished us both a happy anniversary!
Hannah Waddingham & Her Band:
Backing vocals – Eleanor McPhee, Stacey Ghent & Oliver Tompsett
MD/Piano – Chris Walker
Bass – Joe Pettit
Drums – Julian Poole
Reeds – Kay Bywater
Trumpets – Pablo Mendelssohn, Will Smith
Trombone – Ian Moffat