“If I’m in town I want to be the toast of it”
Trying to carve out a niche in the crowded South Bank market, the Waterloo East theatre has turned its eye to cabaret with a set of Sunday night gigs leading up to Christmas. With their special guests, this Sunday saw Rebecca Caine take to the stage, fresh from an afternoon run in Salad Days, with Nathan Martin accompanying her on the ivories and lending vocal support too.
Much of the first half was taken up with showcasing material from her album Leading Ladies which celebrates leading ladies from the musical theatre stage from the first half of the twentieth century, names like Gertie Lawrence, Jessie Matthews and Lizbeth Webb. So we were treated to Coward classics like ‘One Life To Live’, ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’, ‘You Were There’ and a beautiful ‘I’ll See You Again’, dedicated to the late great Joan Sutherland and her sparkling cadenzas alongside excerpts from the Jessie Matthews repertoire like ‘Over My Shoulder’, ‘Tinkle Tinkle’ and ‘Gangway’. Caine recounted several anecdotes about these women between songs clearly demonstrating her passion for this era and these women and adding nice subtleties to her interpretations.
Elsewhere in the programme she paid tribute to both her opera and her musical theatre background, displaying an impressive versatility and range: there was a nod to one of her better known roles, Les Misérables’ Cosette which she originated in the RSC production at the Barbican 25 years ago now, singing ‘I Saw Him Once’, now cut from the show. But my personal favourite was a gorgeous song I’d never heard before from the little-known musical ‘My Life With Albertine’ showing the beauty of good cabaret shows at unearthing little gems and introducing audiences to the lesser-explored as well as the familiar.
There’s something rather deliciously old-school about Nathan Martin (and what is it with pianists and good hair at the moment?!) with his laidback charm and twinkle-eyed banter from behind the piano providing the perfect foil for Caine in their duets. He also impressed with his medley of Irving Berlin numbers including ‘Puttin’ On The Ritz’ and ‘Steppin’ Out With My Baby’ and a relaxed stroll through ‘Sleigh Ride’ as well as his dextrous and expressive accompaniments throughout the show.
Possibly the most thrilling numbers for me though were when Caine introduced her special guests, Gina Beck & Annalene Beechey, for a set of lusciously arranged tunes. Surely inspired by the highly successful Three Phantoms concert series at which Caine is a featured artiste, these three ladies have all played the role of Christine in Phantom of the Opera, and on this evidence they could be onto a winner themselves. The harmonies around Wishing You Were Somehow here again were exquisite, the trills and vocal stylings on Rodgers & Hart’s ‘Sing for your Supper’ a treasure and the closing ‘O Holy Night’ (with assistance from Martin too) a thing of genuine rapturous wonder. If anyone is going to ensure the reputation of soprano singing, I could well imagine it would be these three songbirds.
So whilst however million people stayed home and watched The X-Factor on this grim Sunday evening, I’m rather glad I ventured out to Waterloo to see some real singing, the like of which ought to be celebrated more, and mark my words, I reckon this isn’t the last we’ll hear of the three Christines.