Composer Irving Berlin is still remembered today for such timeless songs as “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, “White Christmas”, “They Say That Falling In Love Is Wonderful”, “Cheek To Cheek”, “How Deep Is The Ocean?” “Puttin’ On The Ritz” and many, many more. His now famous “Alexander’s Rag Time Band”, written and released in 1911, started a new dance craze that many thought would be the downfall of innocent young women; with George Gershwin calling him “the greatest songwriter that has ever lived”, and Jerome Kern stating that “Irving Berlin has no place in American music – he is American music”.
Lucy Maunder’s cabaret show, Irving Berlin: Songs In The Key Of Black is a look at the man and the times he grew up in through his music. To say this show is wonderful is nowhere good enough – it matches Maunder herself: sexy, sultry and absolutely captivating.
Maunder would be best known to some as Lara in the Australian musical Doctor Zhivago. She is soon to be returning to Adelaide as Gertrude Lawrence in Noel And Gertie, and will be appearing at the end of this year as Rizzo in a production of Grease. Here, however, Maunder takes her audience way back to the great sleazy New York speakeasy days – where alcohol was served in a tea cup and beer was five cents a glass – aided by Nicholas Christo’s anecdotal script, Neil Gooding’s atmospheric, precise direction, and the truly magnificent piano playing of Musical Director Andrew Patterson.
Ms Maunder is stunning; simply divine. She grabs the audience from the start by just walking on singing “Let’s Face The Music”, combined with “Blue Skies”, through to the best end a show of this kind could have: a brilliant, rousing rendition of “I Love A Piano” where she not only shows off even more of her remarkable vocal range, but we get to witness Patterson’s marvellous piano playing in all its glory (where he hilariously tries and very nearly succeeds in taking the glory away from Ms Maunder).
Under smoky red and blue lighting that envelopes the stage, Maunder amazes the audience with beautiful love songs such as “What’ll I Do?” and “How Deep Is The Ocean”, and great Honky Tonk favourites like “Puttin’ On The Ritz”, “Stepping Out” and, of course, “Alexander’s Rag Time Band”.
The downside to this superb show? It was one night only. The upside, however, is that there is a CD of it available!
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 10 June
Duration: 1hr 10min