Downstairs at The Gatehouse is a Wetherspoon pub serving excellent real ale. Upstairs is a ‘fringe’ theatre with refurbished seats, currently hosting a brilliant show. I was ready for a pint after trekking across Hampstead Heath to reach this Highgate venue, but it was well worth the trek. The format is simple. Four singers (two male, one female) backed by a trio of piano, bass and drums – all excellent – provide songs from the repertoire of famous Jewish entertainers, linked by interesting snippets about the lives of those entertainers, as well as examples of their bons mots and repartee. This simple format yielded two hours of pure joy for the audience.
The chosen artistes went in chronological order from Al Jolson through Sophie Tucker, Groucho Marx, Fanny Brice, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand to Burt Bacharach. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know – a pleasant mode of instruction. But the main thing was the music. There is something there to suit all tastes. I am not a great fan of Barbra Streisand, but I was bowled over by the Burt Bacharach numbers. I didn’t realise he had written so much stuff. Aretha Franklin’s I say a little prayer, Tom Jones’ What’s new, pussycat?, Dionne Warwick’s Walk on by were among the numbers rendered superbly by this excellent cast. The highlight for me, though, was the rendition of Anyone who had a heart. People of a certain age (my age) will remember it as a hit performed with great emotion by the late Cilla Black.
But as I say, there is something there for all musical tastes. Catch this show if you can!