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Karen Akers - Anything Goes

Pizza on the Park

8 June - 13 June 2010





A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Cole Porter might only ring vague bells with this generation, but nearly everyone recognises songs like 'Anything Goes', 'I've Got You under My Skin' and 'I Get a Kick out of You'.  His work is listed in the Great American Songbook and is powerfully nostalgic for the last generation of Hollywood's glamour heyday, sung by such huge stars of screen and cabaret stage as Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. They conjure up the glittering world of champagne glasses clinked by an American elite with impossibly extravagant lifestyles who kept reality at bay with parties like Grace Kelly's in the film  High Society which brought Sinatra and Crosby together to sing Porter.
Karen Akers effortlessly meets the expectations set by this tradition. She swept onto the stage in an elegant bronze gown, tall, slender and regal with the high cheekbones and the classic bob of an Aubrey Beardsley drawing, looking like the Dorothy Parker of the Algonquin years even before she opened her mouth for the first witty quip of the evening. Easily as glamorous as Grace Kelly, though rather more sophisticated and worldly wise, Akers sang Porter songs in a rich, mature contralto, introducing each song with great charm and humour, engaging every member of the audience with eye contact in the front row even before the end of the first song. This was a highly polished act where every sidelong glance, every sigh and gesture was delivered with impeccable timing. She leaped from stage to stool to piano top with the grace of a cat and never once faltered though she quoted Porter's contemporaries on his eccentricities, segued guilelessly from 'Let's Do It' into Noel Coward's satirical subversion of that song which poked fun at the literary celebrities of the time like Ernest Hemingway and Somerset Maugham and seamlessly combined biographical anecdotes with singing well known and other less familiar songs from the Cole Porter songbook. I had never heard 'The Tale of the Oyster' nor 'Thank You So Much, Mrs. Lowsborough-Goodby' before and Akers' comic delivery on these and the more familiar 'Always True To You Darling in My Fashion' was pitched just right. She was accompanied expertly on the piano by Leigh Thompson, backed up by a fine bass player and lit beautifully. This was a class act. The select audience at Pizza on the Park knew it and showed their appreciation.

For anyone who loves High Society, this was like seeing real, timeless American glamour up close enough to see how it's done. The tinge of decadence beneath the superficial gloss was provided by the venue. Akers mentioned that Pizza on the Park is due to close soon and it is indeed past its’ best, like the Ritz, although it had the right seedy quality to offset Akers' Tiffany sparkle. This is a fine cabaret show by a true professional and although she didn't sing my favourite 'Night and Day', she did a surprisingly languorous interpretation of 'Don't Fence Me In' which I used to sing in the Andrews Sisters' jaunty cowboy style for my father as a child.

Akers is a chanteuse with real star quality. 'Begin the Beguine' was perhaps the highlight of the evening as Thompson's flourishes on the grand piano combined with Akers' expressive voice to produce some Tinsel town magic in the heart of London and we were reminded why these songs, whose clever lyrics and beguiling music were written by the Hollywood legend Cole Porter, have been so popular in the past and deserve to be brought to life once more.




Doors open 6.30pm, show starts at 8pm
Pizza on the Park, 11 Knightsbridge, Hyde Park Corner, SW1X 7LY
To Book: 020 7235 7825
Tickets £20 Sat £15 Sun




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