Karen Akers originally made her mark as a featured actress in the original Broadway productions of Nine and Grand Hotel (both directed by Tommy Tune), the first of which was exactly 30 years ago. She looks (and sounds) almost exactly the same now as she did then - a tall, angular presence with a dark contralto voice. She’s the quintessential cabaret performer, refined and rarefied, stylish and stylised, who combines severity with playfulness.
As such, she is emerging now in her later years as the natural successor to Julie Wilson - a song stylist of grace and grit, who illuminates a song from within. She doesn’t have the prettiest instrument, but it produces its own unique, caressing sound that hugs the lyrics and makes them glisten as you listen.
Making a welcome, witty return to London to the new Crazy Coqs with an all Cole Porter programme, the perfect match of artist and material shows both of them at their erudite best. They both summon an air of effortless sophistication, whether charting the journey of a hors d’oeuvre from the unique point of view of the oyster consumed rather than the consumer of it in The Tale of the Oyster, to the fizzing champagne pleasures of I Get A Kick Out of You.
To hear her sing It’s All Right With Me, with simplicity, clarity and directness, is to know that all is right in the cabaret heavens, particularly thanks to some wonderful arrangements whose charts are exquisitely played by Leigh Thompson.