Saturday, February 01, 2014

Janie Dee and Jason Carr in cabaret (with friends and a beautiful relative)

Janie in Cabaret mode
To the Phesantry last night to see Janie's Cabaret. She managed to get herself into a situation where on Fri she was rehearsing with Angela Lansbury for Blithe Spirit during the day, starring in Moving On in the evening and then doing Cabaret later. This was only possible because her very talented composer friend Jason Carr was able to do the first half.

Jason studied at the Guildhall and has written (at least) six musicals as well as music for over 40 plays and orchestrated Sundays in the Park with George and A Little Night Music amongst other pieces. We had some recondite songs from older musicals - "A Cow and a Plough and and a Frau" from the 1950 Arms and the Girl was particularly delicious* as well as many of his songs.

From his Six Pictures of Lee Miller we had a delightful song "I'm looking for a bear" inspired by a single paragraph about a retired French Trapeze artist,  and the haunting "Has anybody see Man Ray?" when Lee Miller is evidently confronted by her jealous ex-lover with a gun and pretends she can't recognise him because he's acting so differently from the way he'd always taught.  (Lee Miller was married to Roger Penrose's uncle!) There was also a song about reverse evolution from his The Water Babies - Kingsley was of course an early champion of Darwin's theories, one of the first UK clerics to embrace the fact that "God could no doubt have brought into being a ready-made world, but in fact the Creator had done something cleverer than that in making ‘a creation that could make itself’."

During the interval it transpired that the charming lady on the next table was Felicity Lott who is a friend of both Janie and Jason. I have long admired her work and it was great to meet her.

Then Janie came on and caressed the audience!  Her personality and brilliant singing and acting skills just shine through. No question of shouting into the mike - indeed for one song she dispensed with it altogether. Greeting perfect strangers at the front and old friends everywhere she gave masterly performances of wonderful numbers including:
  • I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter.
  • Yes, Say Yes! explaining how she had managed to be triple booked (and done much better than Liza Minelli) 
  • QWERTYUIOP aka Copy Type (after which  "does anyone know who wrote this - apart from Nicholas, I know you know.....No? ... O OK tell them")
  • This Isn't Cassablanca by Kit Hesketh-Harvey and James McConnel
  • Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
  • A Quiet Thing ("When it all comes true, just the way you planned, it's funny but the bells don't ring - it's a quiet thing") which she told in the context of a very moving story about getting her whole extended family together for Christmas while she was doing Hello Dolly.
We also had the great treat of her talented and beautiful daughter Matilda singing a duet with a young friend of Janies who had played her son in Shadowlands.

An evening to remember and savour. Sadly tonight is the last night - catch it if you can!

And definitely book up for Blithe Spirit.

* Some have said that A Cow and a Plough and a Frau is " the song often cited as the low point of her achievements"  Apart from being insanely catchy it's clear to any writer that it must have been inspired by reflecting on the strangeness of a language in which ow, ough and au can all rhyme (though of course flow, rough and tau don't rhyme at all).  And there is certainly a dig at the farmer's attitude to children, as well as the very fundamental line: "Things must be planned for my children’s children now" which I wish more people would realise.

You can hear the song on spotify - as for the lyrics, which I can't find on the web, judge for yourself:

If I had a Cow and Plough and a Frau how good would my life would be.
I’d make a home where I’d know my heart would rest
I could hitch the Cow to the Plough while my Frau looked on and smiled at me
Smiled and she dreamed of the dreams we loved the best

Dreams about a meadow rolling in the sunlight
And a field of clover for the pretty cow
Dreams about a baby laughing at a raindrop
How do you suppose a new world grows?

Starting with a Cow and Plough and a Frau it’s simply ABC
I’d plough more land if we had four children
We would expand if we had more children
Things must be planned for my children’s children now
All I need is a Cow and Plough and Beautiful Frau

The son and I would wake the lazy sky
On the hill we’d roam together
The son and I would help the day go by
After work we’d go home together

Starting with a Cow and Plough and a Frau it’s simply ABC
I’d plough the land with my seven children
We would expand with eleven children
Things must be planned for my children’s children now
All I need is a Cow and Plough and Beautiful Frau

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