Review: Hannah Waddingham, Live at the Chocolate Factory

“Isn’t it rich, isn’t it queer”

Hannah Waddingham was a fixture at the Menier Chocolate Factory in their big winter musical, A Little Night Music, the year before last, so it is somewhat fitting that she has returned here to play a run of a week of her cabaret show. Ranging from showtunes to pop with a healthy smattering of jazz, the cosy space of the Menier feels just right hosting this kind of show

She’s such a natural performer and exudes a refreshing likeability that makes her almost impossible not to resist. Confidently covering all of these genres, this is a highly professional show with a number of highlights: ‘Send in the Clowns’ is naturally a treat, and it’s such a nice change having it sung by a strong vocalist. The only letdown was her not tipping me a wink as she sung the name of my blog, but I suppose I can forgive her that!

Part of the fun of cabaret shows is this vast variety of songs that can make up the repertoire, but for me it is also one of the downsides. The connections come when you recognise the material, I loved ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’ and even an unexpected ‘Thriller’, but on too many occasions, I was left scratching my head as I just haven’t seen many of the shows which have populated her career: Spamalot; The Beautiful Game; Lautrec. These other songs were still performed well, don’t get me wrong, but my lack of familiarity with them meant that they didn’t capture my attention in the same way. I’ve had pretty much the same experience at other cabaret shows I’ve been to and don’t seem to be learning my lesson, but I just find it hard to resist the opportunity to see performers whom I like in this kind of intimate setting.

The band, under the musical direction of Chris Walker, were excellent and obviously have a great rapport with Waddingham. So I doubt many people will be disappointed if they go to any of the remaining shows: this really is a top quality show, it just didn’t  click instantly with me. The concerts are being recorded and a CD will be released later in the year which will give more people the welcome opportunity to hear these tunes, and for me to get to know them better so that I might retrospectively appreciate just how good an evening I witnessed.

Running time: 2 hours (with interval)

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