Kathleen Turner: Finding My Voice
The Other Palace,
Friday 20th April 2018
This is a terrific evening in the theatre, with a clutch of songs old and new given a good old working-over by one of the best actresses in the business, and – this is the clincher – couched in some of the cleverest, sassiest repartee you are going to hear in a while. The first two numbers, ‘Where or When’ and ‘Let’s Fall In Love’, introduce us to the peculiarly dark and heavy qualities of Turner’s singing voice, but it is when her narration kicks in before the much looser and amiable ‘Since I Fell For You’ that we really click.
With just a trim trio to support her, and director Andy Gale’s thoughtful pacing and direction to shape the evening, Turner relies only on a black blouse and trousers to frame her masterful repertoire of expressions and gesture to elaborate her stories, on which the songs nestle like sugar plums on a Christmas dinner table. There is a set, of sorts, from designer Robert Jones, comprising a firm settee and a couple of chairs, which afford her a variety of spots on which to perch, with each moment lit beautifully by David Howe. But the restlessness of her imagination keeps her so much on the move that we are always focussed on her, first and last.
Indeed, right from the ovation that greets her initial appearance on the stage, to the standing ovation that rounds off the event, we remain fixed upon this remarkable individual – this star – and her every thought and utterance. So, while Kathleen narrates, her inspired MD and arranger, Mark Janas (they’ve just completed a tour of the Cunard Line’s favourite destinations together on the Queen Victoria) interpolates with wittily precise musical commentary. With experts like Jonny Gee or Jerome Davies on Bass and Jonathan Preiss on Guitar, musical quality is guaranteed. With Mic Pool on hand to balance out the sound so finely, the package is complete.
The musical range, like that of the life experiences and intellectual pursuits of our leading lady, is immense. We leap from Venezuelan hits (given in both perfect Spanish and the English vernacular) to a smashing ‘If You Believed In Me’ from the 30s songbook, then on through ‘Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home’ and a clutch of brilliantly funny stories (the writing is all Turner’s, and super it is, too), to the lovely ‘Sweet Kentucky Ham On Your Mind’. She can even make ‘On The Street Where You Live’ all hers, bringing truthfulness to every moment, more of which was of offer in the so Sondheimian ‘Live Alone And Like It’. The first half closed with the good-humoured ‘I’d Rather Be Sailing’.
The second opened with a smart entr’acte from the band, and then we got more social consciousness raising from a remarkably fresh and apposite ‘Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime?’. Political discourse was the order of the day now, as we also broached Molly Ivens’ analysis of the current political situation, above all in the State, punctuated by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s blast against the rising tide of McCarthyism, ‘You’ve Got To Be Taught’. A brighter voice sounded in ‘Everybody Has The Right To Be Wrong’, which sounds like Jerry Herman, but is in fact by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy van Heusen, and was sung by Sinatra, no less. This is classy stuff!
That takes us to a brand new song, ‘In This Town’, commissioned for this tour, taking a massive swipe at the New Right’s attacks on women’s health and autonomy. This, in turn, takes us to her encounter with rheumatoid arthritis and a touching rendition of ‘Send In The Clowns’. This transitions through a recollection of her go at ‘The Graduate’ in the West End, and then on Broadway, making a big statement for showing a naked leading woman there, at 48! (That got a round of applause from her mainly similarly aged audience.)
We mellowed with ‘A Foggy Day’, and progressed via her tough acting course, ‘Shut Up … and do it!’, via ‘I May Have Never Found My Way To You’ and ‘Throw It Away’ to a luscious conclusion with ‘Ev’rytime We Say Goodbye’, sung – at first – very a la Ella, with just a guitar, then launched into a full band arranged, mashed with ‘What’ll I Do?’, and that, ladies and gentlemen, was pretty much that.