I had never come across Tony Award-winner Lillias White before I saw her streamed cabaret from London’s Crazy Coqs last week. ‘Accompanied by’ doesn’t do justice to another legend – pianist Billy Stritch – who chats to her, sings with her and plays amazing piano to complement her prodigious singing talent.
The next surprise for me was some of her showtune choices. We get some standards like Don’t Rain On My Parade and When You’re Good To Mama but also the delightfully ingenue I’v Gotta Crow from Peter Pan, and the wickedly outrageous The Oldest Profession – a world-weary sex-worker’s lament from Cy Coleman’s The Life.
Sliced in between anecdotes of her career and love life, we get a marvellous rendition of Never Never Land, and I Wanna Be Loved, the latter from the Dinah Washington bio-musical Dinah Was.
Lillias’ great skill is her characterisation of songs, plus the breadth and depth of her vocal range. She can go from softly whispered love lyrics to full-on diva with all vocal guns blazing. It’s no surprise to learn in her chat that she was chosen to re-open Broadway post-Covid by reprising her role as Mamma Morton in Chicago. What a joyous night that must have been.
There are times when there’s more than a nod to Streisand, but in Don’t Rain On My Parade, she has in my mind more of an edge and sharpness to her voice that makes the song stronger. Those Hands is another Cy Coleman number which shows both her vocal dexterity but also Stritch’ s fantastic keyboard skills.
I Am Changing from Dreamgirls, which she appeared in to great acclaim, and I Wanna Be Loved are just pitch perfect and her rendition of Somewhere from West Side Story tears the heart .
A wonderful First Lady of musical theatre who needs to bring more shows to London for sure. Five-star evening of pure entertainment.
Lillias White live stream is available to purchase until Thursday, April 28 with this link https://tickets.artist-tix.com/tickets/series/CC22LWSB/lillias-white-sings-broadway-430201