The more perceptive amongst you will have noticed that I haven’t blogged anything for a little while. Given that most folks understandably fall asleep with my musings that’s about three of you. Her indoors has manfully plugged gaps in an early autumn bereft of theatre that appeals. To me that is. But deprived of anything that one usually craves, the urge inexorably returns. My doctor understands, nice man that he is. Explains why I decided to stick my oar into an experimental cabaret evening at the Rep. 3 J’s and a Joanna. The three jays are the singers and the Joanna is a piano. Rhyming slang. Geddit. Not Lumley or Trollope. God, I am so intelligent. Pretty good. Them not me. And they will get better. Described themselves as stylish, camp, and bitchy. Or something like that. Certainly stylish, occasionally bitchy. And Camp? Well one of them was at the end, beautifully, in spades. But I won’t go there. Their sexuality is something secret between them and their instruments. And a friendly and biased audience so warm to them you could crisp toast on it.
The sniffy critic in me is rarely, if ever, seduced by a crowd overselling a product. Seen too many overpraised turkeys to be taken in by that ploy. But an act just starting out can be forgiven a bit of self indulgent camaraderie as they apply the professional spit and polish. Especially when they are, individually, as good and as talented as the three on stage. High notes and harmony did not always totally please and a couple of numbers, especially Defying Gravity, should either be reworked or quietly dropped. I favour the latter. But enough of their turns had me thinking that this interesting trio might have something. Joe Louis Robinson, the piano man, spun out a sensitive and gentle A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. Jenna Ryder-Oliver twisted and turned the tortuously difficult Words, Words, Words with linguistic aplomb. And Jaymes Sygrove wonderfully conveyed the camp receptionist in a very funny Welcome to Holiday Inn. Acting through song is definitely this threesome’s strength. Just my humble opinion for anyone still awake.
As if to emphasise that point the three combined in a finale that was clever and funny and expertly delivered. Design from the musical The Tailor Made Man. Stylish, bitchy, Esther Williams and Pola Negri. What more do you want. All in one glorious song. No, I’ve never heard of it either. But until tonight I had never heard of 3 J's and a Joanna. Given a bit of presentational polish to add to some obvious class I reckon a lot more folks will soon get to know them. Remember you heard it here first. If you aren’t asleep. Roy Hall
Jenna Ryder-Oliver is appearing at The Pheasantry (Chelsea) on 17th February 2014