Julian Eaves reviews An Evening At Joe’s an evening of cabaret online raising funds to help ensure the future of one of theatreland’s favourite eateries.
An Evening At Joe’s
Saturday 4th July – online
Well, the longer the lockdown goes on, the better at getting around it we all seem to be becoming. And that is nowhere more true than with the irrepressible Joe Allen’s restaurant in London’s Covent Garden, a venue that has always been the ‘home’ of the theatre and entertainments industry, and which has a good track record in putting on dinner cabaret with the best talent available in the West End. This time, it was a Covid-19 Emergency Fundraiser, trying to raise funds to maintain the restaurant’s existence.
Hosted by the female impersonator, La Voix, this gig included many zoomed-in contributions. There was a warm, sonorous ‘Being Alive’ from Lucy Williamson, just before the restaurant staff introduced us to the making of a traditional ‘Joe Allen’ cocktail – when did you last see elements of cookery programming creeping into showbiz cabarets? An audience of over 1000 tuned in to see this happen ‘live’, as they get in a ventriloquist act (Stephen Hewlett) to grace the bill of fare. And then we get Patricia Hodge and Derek Jacobi discussing very 1st World problems in decided what to order.
Far Fee came on next to play and sing his way through ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’, with that lovely baritone voice: his vocal technique for the verse approached echt 1920s Broadway voice production, semi-operatic in delivery to reach into every corner of those barn-like Broadway theatres, but opted for the now customary ‘slow ballad’ style for the refrain, but with a big cadential finish. La Voix herself got around such MD-less problems by her trademark lip-synching: this worked well in ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’. If you like that approach, then this was very well done.
But we got ‘real’ voices for Lucy and Far Fee doing the duet, ‘Sue Me’, from ‘Guys’n’Dolls’, using a pre-recorded accompaniment. Debbie Kurup was in the same room as her pianist for a super-cool, breathy but sensuous, ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’: the piano strummed deep, while her voice shone with bright edges giving the well-known tune a different atmosphere, especially leaning into that accented supertonic, ‘WHAT’s love?…’ etc.
Overall, there was less music than in a conventional cabaret. But it was great to hear one of the first JA’s waitresses doing ‘Oh, my feet’ from Frank Loesser’s ‘The Most Happy Fellah’: again, not a long number, but a well-chosen one. Remember: you can still give money to the restaurant if you don’t mind them having that without actually serving you any food or drink! It’s all good karma.
And with that thought in mind, Claire Moore wrapped up with a bouncing jazz-inflected mash-up of ‘Tomorrow’ from ‘Annie’ and 1931’s cheerful morale-booster by Noel Gay, ‘Laughing At The Rain’. Whereat, Gary Wilmott knocked out a smashing ‘Lola’ from ‘Copacabana’. Perfect!