It was my first visit to Cadogan Hall, and to be honest I’m surprised at its use as a venue for this sort of event. The former church’s acoustics just don’t work for a small number of voices, even when amplified. I can see how choirs could really make use of the space acoustically, but individual voices or duets felt lost in the cavernous space.
That said, the selection of songs was superb: from the more well-known numbers including Blue Moon, Isn’t It Romantic, My Funny Valentine, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and The Lady Is A Tramp to Thou Swell, What Can You Do With a Man? and There’s a Small Hotel, it was a great showcase for a songwriting partnership that helped define the modern musical.
Of the performers, Maria Friedman was, as one would expect, far and away the most effective, always able to get to the emotional heart of a song and bringing out every nuance. From the emotional complexity of Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered to the amusing tale of a murderous, many times married vamp in To Keep My Love Alive, the show itself came alive whenever she was given a central role. For my tastes, though, that didn’t happen often enough, and her fellow performers struggled to match. In particular, Simon Green, who helped devise the show and also acts as narrator, struggled at times to hold a tune, while fellow performer Graham Bickley dried on two separate occasions at the start of the second act and never quite recovered.
Those criticisms aside, the musical selections more than compensated for the rough edges. The last concert in this run is on Sunday, and while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend rushing to buy a ticket, searching Amazon or iTunes for some Rodgers and Hart numbers would make for a fruitful weekend.