There's a key ingredient of atmosphere lacking from this otherwise successful evening. Perhaps the Holywell is a little too austere for a collection of such frothy, charming jazz standards. The production could certainly have done with a bit more pizzazz, even some more imaginitive lighting: by the second half of the evening Susanne Sheehy was disappearing into the murk. The lack of vocal amplification also meant that some of the nuances of Sheehy's performance were lost, as indeed were parts of her otherwise very welcome between-songs banter. It turns out they were recording the show and couldn't use microphones, but this further served to make the evening feel like a superior sort of rehearsal.
Sheehy sings with a real purity, grace and confidence, finding her range in the more playful numbers like The Coffee Song and more straightahead ballads like Misty. She struggled at times to find the necessary depth of characterisation and intensity required in songs like Lush Life, with its lyrical account of a broken hearted lover looking for oblivion in drink : "I'll live a lush life in some small dive.../ And there I'll be, while I rot/ With the rest of those whose lives are lonely, too.. "
After a slightly tentative first half, the second half is a belter: the triumvirate of A Foggy Day in London Town, Stormy Weather and My Funny Valentine seeing the concert really begin to swing. Their introduction of more offbeat material, like Sondheim's I'm Losing My Mind, also brings a welcome new angle to the production.
Edward Longhurst plays gracefully and adeptly, making intricate arrangements flow like water from his grand piano. Right at the end, after an evening spent simply waggling his eyebrows to communicate, he suddenly burst into song, singing It's You I Like to a surprised and pleased audience. He sings very well indeed and they should consider introducing this earlier in the act. A few duets, or merely a harmony or two, could really add that extra dimension.
Sheehy and Longhurst's arrangements are thoughtful and done with great care and precision. Perhaps they never fully "own" the material, but this audience was certainly pleased to hear such timeless music, sensitively and professionally rendered. Sheehy, charming us between songs, mentions that they are "more used to playing dingy bars." If you get the chance to see them at one, take it.