They could have called it Etta James Meets Eileen Farrell. It would have reflected what it says on the tin and whilst it still wouldn’t be jazz the cognoscenti would be in little doubt as to what it was. Like Eileen Farrell before her Melinda Hughes reached top F above C in the world of opera before crossing over, equally successfully, into the world of popular song. Now she’s wind-tunnelling a new double act with Etta James sound-alike Alison Limerick who hit the ground running with her 1990 club hit “Where Love Lives” and hasn’t looked back.
The new act nods to several notable performers, beginning with Morecambe and Wise – if only inasmuch as the evening features a specially written opening and closing duet reminiscent of the well-loved comedians. There’s also more of an elaborate wave than a nod to Noel Coward’s “Nina” and though the lyric itself is light years shy of the master the rhyme-scheme has been well caught. Elsewhere Fanny Brice takes one for the Gipper at the well-manicured hands of Melinda, if you look closely you may spot Joyce Grenfell attempting to elude Fascinating Aïda and opera may never be the same in the wake of “Nella Fantasia”.
Wednesday evening, 27 February, London club Crazy Coqs was dressed with the duo’s friends so heavy mitting was more or less assured. But to be fair they would have and will certainly draw this anyway should they persevere. The two performers are not so much chalk and cheese as talc and fromage but they have found a way to make their differences work in their favour.
The Crazy Coqs website didn’t acknowledge the musicians so I returned after hours with a jemmy and prised the information out of them. For the record Jamie Fisher manned the drums and Robert Rickenberg stood behind the bass. Graeme Flowers was a last-minute addition on the trumpet and Jeremy Limb co-wrote Melinda’s material with her as well as serving as musical director and playing piano.
In sum: This is a pleasant and highly entertaining evening. I am definitely not a “soul” person and had I been auditing Alison alone I would have opened a vein after the third number but when they’re together Melinda is effective as an antidote. Both are highly polished and completely at ease whether performing or chatting to the audience. It’s just enough off the wall to prove successful.