Kate Garner blew into Crazy Coqs like a balmy April zephyr swollen with the promise of spring and proceeded to deliver two of the most delightful sets. Her opening number, Irving Berlin’s I Love A Piano, told us all we needed to know about her. This is a lady who really does love a piano and contrives effortlessly to have the audience love her loving a piano.
The first thought when she begins to sing is “Blossom Dearie a semitone lower”. Within eight bars our ears have adjusted and we’re off to the races. Then come her own compositions and once again we appear to be on familiar ground. Then the penny drops and we settle for Victoria Wood twice removed.
Some divas are 90 percent ego, 10 percent talent but Kate Garner is the complete opposite and more than happy to share the stand with others. She offers the piano stool to Tom Carradine, turns over the mic to Al Bowlly sound-alike Brandyn Shaw and duets with first husband Paul Garner and later with Shaw.
She gives a nod to her musical roots – her father was Chas Hodges, the Chas of Chas and Dave – via a reading of the duo’s Ain’t No Pleasing You. That was well received and then, by way of complete contrast, came Edith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose, performed entirely in French; that drew a whispered “beautiful” from the table adjacent to mine.
The first set ended with Manning Sherwin’s gorgeous WWII ballad, A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square whilst the second set began with a somewhat older ballad, Thomas Moore’s Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms, which I doubt very much is a staple of the cabaret circuit yet which seems right at home in the mouth of Ms Garner.
Time now to touch on Kate’s own compositions which are sprinkled liberally throughout the evening. She is totally eclectic in her choice of subject matter and cares not a jot if auditors know the Duchess of Duke Street, Clarice Cliffe, Wallis Warfield, Mapp and Lucia, or remember the Ladybird books, though she is on firmer ground with Agatha Christie.
After inviting Brandyn Shaw to delight the audience with his very convincing xerox of Al Bowlly in The Very Thought Of You, Garner joins him in the duet Two Sleepy People by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser before they go on to read the balcony scene from Private Lives, which segues, of course, into Someday I’ll Find You.
All four performers bow off with a charming rendition of Bye, Bye, Blues, bringing to a close one of the most satisfying evenings I’ve seen on the current cabaret circuit.
Kate Garner At Crazy Coqs, Sherwood St, 9 September 2021.