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Maunder shines bright in the key of black

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Lucy Maunder

Lucy Maunder

I like to remember the moment when a star is born. I had seen Lucy Maunder a few times before this occurred. Through Rocky Horror Show, A Little Night Music and Doctor Zhivago, I saw a capable actress and a gifted singer. But it took Sydney Theatre Company’s ill-fated 2011 revival of Threepenny Opera to open my eyes to her full capacity.

Alongside an awkward Tim Burton-esque digital 3-D set and a series of performances that attempted to outdo each other as they scrambled further away from reality, Lucy took centre stage and sang ‘The Barbra Song’ and transformed on the spot.

It takes a certain indefinable quality to grab your audience and hold them spellbound on the rise and fall of your voice, captivated by the movement of your body and the expression on your face. It’s called star power, and of it you can only say that you know it when you see it.

Some months later I found myself sitting in a gorgeous 19th century Australian Coach House in the Blue Mountains. I’m surrounded by soft lighting, wood paneling and an audience spell bound by a star named Lucy Maunder.

Song in the Key of Black is a show written by Nick Christo for the talents of Lucy Maunder and Daniel Edmonds and together this team of artists has created something remarkable. Though by construct this is a one woman show, it defies expectations at every turn. It’s a star vehicle yes, but for Irving Berlin – and here is where the show and its creative team shine.

Daniel Edmonds is remarkable at the piano. The most ragged of Berlin’s Ragtime Rags, ballads, standards, comic patter songs, the cream of the music theatre crop – some of the best of the American songbook is given the finest of treatment in his capable hands. Nick Christo has written a very fine show. A dazzling selection of songs is on offer from Berlin’s most well-known to the depths of his back catalogue. Threading it together is no simple task and yet the result is well-crafted, atmospheric, heartfelt, funny and brimming with pathos. And Lucy Maunder makes the most of every opportunity she is given.

"We are seldom given so fine a chance to appreciate a great singer, a great actress and a great musician as we have been afforded with Lucy Maunder in Songs in the Key of Black"

We are seldom given so fine a chance to appreciate a great singer, a great actress and a great musician as we have been afforded with Lucy Maunder in Songs in the Key of Black. Shimmering into view with her trademark elegance and verve she holds you from the first whispered lines and she doesn’t let you go.

With smiles and laughs a-plenty she pulls you through the world of one of the 20th centuries most gifted songwriters, interpreting song after song and standard after standard with gentility, boldness and with love. Comic – hilarious! – one moment, and mourning a lost love the next with such aching honesty – you can’t not watch her!

I would love to mention every song in which Lucy excelled but we don’t have the pixel ink so I’ll confine to the Berlin standard ‘What’ll I Do’. In her capable hands the song smoulders and swirls and builds until half way through it escapes her like an animal cry and an audience already on the edge of their seat can do nothing but watch as her heart breaks.

This is a performer with a gift for interpreting lyrics and – clearly – a great love and understanding for the works of Irving Berlin.

I understand from conversations since that the show – directed with pinpoint accuracy to the right atmosphere by Neil Gooding – will be headed to venues in Sydney with the intention to tour.

We can but hope. If ever a show deserved to tour it’s this one! In fact Lucy, if you’re looking for a debut album, this is it.

Lucy Maunder performing alongside Daniel Edmonds in Irving Berlin – Songs in the Key of Black. Look for announcements and book tickets early. This is not a show you want to miss!

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David has written 179 articles on AussieTheatre
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