Friday 31 August 2012

Song Of The Single Girl @ The Union Theatre

Amongst all the loving romances and fairytale endings, musicals can sometimes (believe it or not) be true to life.  The trials and tribulations of singledom, finding a dream partner, messy break-ups and more have all been cemented in both light-hearted and heart-breaking musical form.

It's this theme that Kate Brennan explored in her one-woman cabaret Song Of The Single Girl.  It turns out there's more than just the one song lamenting singledom, with a varied programme of both show tunes and pop songs "where Bridget Jones meets Judy Garland".  Brennan posed as something of a Bridget Jones herself, with amusing and personal quips informing the choice of songs - from bad dates to embarrassing family members.

There are some limitations with this theme, the songs predominantly from modern musicals and falling into either the comedy or ballad category.  There was still room for variety though, with numbers from both established classics (Sondheim's 'Follies'), modern masters (Jason Robert Brown's 'Songs for a New World') and cutting edge lesser-known works (Pasek and Paul's 'Edges') amongst others.  Many of the songs were commendably arranged by accompanist Joe Atkins.  There was even room for invention with a creative performance of the pop classic I Will Survive that hilariously morphed from diva through to gangster.

Moreover, Brennan deftly switched from style to style.  Clearly a confident character actress, the comedy numbers caused frequent eruptions of volcanic laughter from the audience, stemming from some charismatic vocals and expressive facial mannerisms.  Accents never posed a problem, from the southern drawl of Always A Bridesmaid ('I Love You, You're Perfect Now Change' - Joe Diepetro and Jimmy Roberts) to the thick Welsh sing-song chiming of A Simple Valley Song ('Jet Set Go' - Brunger and Cleary).  In Short ('Edges') was a rousing success, encapsulating what every girl feels after a break-up.  And you can always count on Sondheim for some clever wordplay, Brennan effortlessly singing through tongue-twister The Boy From... ('The Mad Show').

You can also count on Sondheim for some honest emotion, which Brennan surely delivered with Losing My Mind ('Follies'), in addition to The Man That Got Away ('A Star Is Born' - Harold Arlen/Ira Gershwin).  A beautiful rendition of I Can't Make You Love Me (a pop song originally made famous by Bonnie Raitt and, more recently, Adele and Bon Iver) really tugged at the heart-strings with a nuanced vocal.

Brennan surely has a powerful set of lungs, able to belt out a tune with gusto.  Equally, the softer moments were infused with emotion.  With little vibrato, the bigger notes sometimes lacked a little extra touch of colour.  Yet with such stage presence, Brennan proved a consummate performer, even if at times she was in danger of upstaging her guest singers Shaun McCourt and Sejal Keshwala.  McCourt's rendition of If I Could Find A Boy ('Jet Set Go') certainly showed that the girls aren't the only ones who suffer.

Song Of The Single Girl provided an hilariously entertaining evening, filled with exuberant singing and enthusiasm for musical theatre.  Viva girl power!