There are some great singers who can make the tremendous physical exertion and complexities of vocal technique disappear in the wealth of tone and emotional commitment in every note. Judy Garland was one such; Barbara Cook another and then there’s Lorna Dallas.
She is a classy act and unafraid to wear her singing heart on her sleeve. She gives us the best of Kern and a silly bit of Sondheim but with the now unfashionable Ivor Novello you just know she has come home ; her soaring and perfectly exquisite top operatic soprano notes are mixed with at times an almost spoken technique and a deeply rich sonorous lower register – it’s all quite magic.
Put that alongside perfect diction, an impish and wicked smile and glint in her eye and you have cabaret royalty in front of you. Recorded at the London cabaret venue in 2017, this show marked the end of a 20-year gap since Lorna last did cabaret in the capital.
She was back in 2019 and I just hope the venue have an equally good recording of that outing they can stream for us.
Jerome Kern’s Showboat first brought the young Dallas to the West End to appear as Magnolia opposite Cleo Laine as Julie. In this cabaret she gives us Bill and You Are Love and they are beautifully rendered with controlled emotion and pure tonality.
Younger Than Springtime, Dallas confesses, is her favourite arrangement by lifelong accompanist Jason Carr, and it’s trickily sung across the tempo with subtle key changes.
You will never have heard Before The Parade Passes By sung like she sings it here – starting quiet , reflective and sad, and ending with gritty determination. Kern’s Once In A Blue Moon is perfectly representative of Lorna Dallas’ contemplative, blatantly romantic and sentimental style which never cloys.
In her finale she is clearly overcome by the emotion of the night and let’s hope it’s not long before she can get another cabaret standing ovation in London.
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