Janice Watson Sings Cabaret – All Saints Church, Borehamwood 24th March 2024.

Singers: Janice Watson and Laurie Marks

The ABC Trio: Celia Bangham – oboe, Adele Gordon – clarinet, Caitlin Stock – bassoon

Double Bass – Helen Boyea, Drums – Simon Kenyon-Smith, Piano – Derek Holland

This concert was the brainchild of both Andrew Grady and Derek Holland, it had been thwarted due to the Covid 19 pandemic, but now at last able to happen. As the current President of the Rotary Club of the Studios of Elstree and Borehamwood, Andrew Grady chose to raise money for The Alzheimer’s society in memory of his late mother, who was also a keen singer herself, having hamily links to the Huddersfield Choral Society.

The ABC Trio who are all regular musicians with the Elstree Mozart Players, opened proceedings with an Allegro from Mozart’s Divertimento No. 4. A lively start to this wonderful extravaganza and played with the usual panache you expect from EMP musicians.

Then it was time for Janice to delight us with her Cabaret voice, ably accompanied by Derek Holland, Helen Boyes and Simon Kenyon-Smith. She gave us a little explanation about the differences between the Operatic and Cabaret style of voice, and how the sound is made. Such a consummate professional, Janice brings an almost forensic and analytical understanding to her performances and is prepared and able to share that know how with an audience. She began with Gimme Gimme from Thoroughly Modern Millie by Tesori /Scanlon. From the first note she had everyone spellbound; no microphone required, her operatic training kicked in even though her sound and delivery were clearly showtime-musical in style. The applause was instant as she finished, warm and appreciative of such a class act. She followed up with Secret Love, from Calamity Jane by Sammy Fain and ended this selection with, My Ship by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin. By now the audience were completely under her spell, Janice was on a roll.

To give her voice a break, The ABC Trio performed a few more numbers. Firstly, The Entertainer by Scott Joplin, then Nessun Dorma [none shall sleep] from Turandot by Puccini and Regina della notte [queen of the night aria] from Magic Flute by Mozart. A brilliant foil to cabaret songs and a nod to Janice and her profession.

Next, Janice sung the Tale of the Oyster by Cole Porter, an amusing number where she brought all her years of opera stage experience and presence to the fore.  Then a song that most people know either as the Liverpool Football team anthem, or more properly from the musical, Carousel, – You’ll Never Walk Alone by Rodgers and Hammerstein. She ended this section with ‘Bill’ by Jerome kern, a beautiful love song and Janice brought great heart and pathos to it. The ABC Trio then played a Gavotte by Gossec and a Tango from Espana by Albeniz.

To end the first half, Janice was joined by Laurie Marks (an experienced Gilbert & Sullivan participant), in a famous duet from Annie Get Your Gun – Anything you Can Do, by Irvin Berlin. They both sung and acted the roles perfectly, much to the joy and amusement of the audience, rounding off what had been a brilliant and thoroughly engaging experience, and we were only halfway through!

The ABC Trio opened the second half with Tico-Tico no Fuba [sparrow in the cornmeal] by Abreau, then Beautiful dreamer by Stephen Foster. Beautifully played and preparing us for Janice’s next numbers.

She began with Cry me a River by Arthur Hamilton. A dreamy, steamy song that Janice got beneath the skin of perfectly. Then she was joined by Laurie in his specialist subject, There’s A Beauty in the Bellow of the Blast from the Mikado by Gilbert & Sullivan. Again, they inhabited the parts and delivered a flawless performance. Janice ended this section with And all that Jazz from Chicago by Kander and Ebb. She really got to the heart of cabaret with this one and gave it some ‘wellie’. The audience couldn’t get enough, applauding loudly and enthusiastically.

Once more The ABC Trio gave Janice time to rest her voice and played Jeanie with the light brown hair by Stephen Foster, Rondo from Divertimento no 4 by Mozart, and then the evergreen Danny boy by Weatherly.

Janice began her final selection of songs with Maybe This Time by Kander and Ebb from the musical Cabaret. A love song that she understood thoroughly and lived through every moment taking the audience with her. Then a change of style, sung more operatically, yet from a musical, Climb Every Mountain from The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein. A superb song and a glorious rendition, then applause to match.

A change of mood, humour. Janice sung A Word on my Ear by Flanders and Swann a comic song about a tone deaf singer, clearly not about Janice! Brilliantly sung and performed with gestures from her able accompanist – Derek. The final song, also humorous if a little macabre, had Laurie join her again in, A Little Priest from Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim. They played their roles very convincingly, almost chillingly! At the end, applause was hearty, celebratory and a tribute to a wonderful artist. Bravo Janice!

A final flourish by The ABC Trio with Maruntel [fast dance] from Romanian dances by Bartók rounded off a fantastic evening of entertainment. The audience responded enthusiastically now ‘sugar’ high on all these musical lollipops.

The local Mayor gave thanks to the musicians and particularly Janice for her wonderful singing, also to the organisers and audience who make it all worthwhile. Andrew Grady also thanked everyone for supporting the Alzheimer’s Society and his friends and musicians for organising and playing, clearly moved by the occasion.

‘Let’s have more of that Jazz’ Janice, you have proved what a versatile and talented opera singer you are and how you can sing anything, adapt your voice to any genre. Fantastic!!

Graham Wilson (Freelance Reviewer for EMP)