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Caroline O’Connor: The Showgirl Within review at Garrick Theatre London

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A classy West End cabaret season that has already included brief appearances by Frances Ruffelle, Lynda Carter and Jason Robert Brown now climaxes with a full week season for Caroline O’Connor, who presents not so much a cabaret as a fully-staged concert autobiography.

Oldham-born, but brought up in Australia, whose accent she still wears lightly, she has come a long way from second understudy to Emma Thompson in Me and My Girl to an Olivier nominated role in the West End (she lost to Judi Dench), starring runs as Velma Kelly in Chicago both in Australia and on Broadway and appearances with ENO and most recently as part of the BBC Prom in honour of Stephen Sondheim.

On that last occasion in July, she sang Broadway Baby, and reprising it here, it fits her like a glove – it’s as if a career as a performer was always her destiny. She has paid her dues along the way – hers is the classic story of a gypsy turned leading lady that has also informed the careers of Liza Minnelli (whose former, slender self she resembles, and whose voice she frequently channels) and Chita Rivera (whose fluid dance movements she expertly conjures).

There’s something quirky and individual about her, too, that puts one in mind of Betty Boop. She’s also particularly adept at impersonation, with intentional homages to Ethel Merman (whom she played in the Cole Porter biopic De-lovely), Piaf and Judy Garland.

She is joined by an ace seven-piece band, under musical director Daniel Edmonds, that also includes her husband Barrie Shaw – she also has a dance troupe of two boys and two girls who are half her age, with whom she not only keeps up with, but leads from the front in Andrew Wright’s Fosse-inflected choreography.

Production Information

Garrick Theatre, London, September 27-October 3

Director
Russell Labey
Musical director
Daniel Edmonds
Producer
Neil Eckersley, Paul Spicer, Speckulation Entertainment, Stuart Piper, Jon Bath, Cole Kitchenn
Cast
Caroline O’Connor
Running time
1hrs 45mins
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