Vivian Reed – The Pheasantry

Vivian Reed performed at The Pheasantry, London.

Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

For two special nights a magical event happened: the too long overdue London debut of a glittering Broadway star, Vivian Reed.

Although she repeated in Paris her Tony Award-winning performance in the musical revue Bubbling Brown Sugar and subsequently had a concert and recording career there, she never appeared in the successful London edition of the show, not wanting to commit to another long run.

Here she brought to London her tribute show to another legend who sold out the Adelphi, also comparatively late in her career with The Lady and Her Music: Lena Horne.

Expertly accompanied by her New York musical director Doug Oberhamer, Reed opening appropriately with Sondheim’s ‘Hey, Old Friend’ and then proceeded to venture into the repertoire of the legendary jazz singer, movie star and political activist without ever attempting to imitate her for a second.

A true force of nature, Reed gave her own distinctive interpretation to the numerous songs Horne introduced over her long career. Beginning and closing with ‘On a Wonderful Day like Today’ from the hit-filled but now obscure Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, she brought her own style and flair to Cole Porter’s ‘Just One of Those Things’ and ‘From This Moment On’.

There were also songs Horne recorded later on in her career such as ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face’ from My Fair Lady and of course the two songs most closely associated with the artist: ‘Stormy Weather’ and ‘The Lady is a Tramp’.

Humorously commenting on her personal life and her husbands, notably her long-time musical director Lennie Hayton she met during her MGM years, with a medley of ‘Lover Man’/‘The Man I Love’, Reed aptly concluded with Horne’s opening to her autobiographical Broadway show ‘The Lady Must Live’.

‘If You Believe’ from The Wiz, Horne’s last movie appearance in 1978, directed by her own son-in-law Sidney Lumet, was an apt encore. And of course Reed could not leave us without showing off her bravura vocals in an a cappella heartfelt rendition of ‘The Nearness of You’, reaching out to an audience she had held in the palm of her hand over a fast-paced hour.

Reed was obviously very happy to be at the venue and so were we… and we can’t wait for her to come back to London and why not Paris, as we miss her there too.

Patrick Honoré