Welcome to the Big Top

Reviewer's rating

Crazy Coqs is an intimate cabaret bar below ground near Piccadilly Circus.  One might expect the music to be slinky and seductive, with a singer in a low-cut gown and someone tinkling on the old ivories.  That is not what we got last night, when Anne Steele, newly arrived from the USA, belted out some great rock and pop numbers, as well as beautiful ballads, interwoven with stories of her life.  This she likened to a circus – hence the title of her show.  Brought up in small town Indiana, her life changed when she moved to New York City, where she became a dancer, and then a singer in piano bars.  She was able to “come out” and eventually get married – her wife was in the audience.  But there is no cloying sentimentality.  The stories are funny, and were greeted with much laughter.

The main thing, of course, was the music, and we were treated to a succession of great numbers, some unknown to me, some very familiar.  Ms Steele did excellent versions of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Charlie Puth’s Attention and the Steve Miller Band’s Abracadabra.  Her powerful vocals were powered along by a brilliant band – piano, bass, drums and two female backing vocalists.  Astonishingly, all except the pianist (who was also musical director) had been recruited locally, and had had just one day to rehearse.  What a performance!  No wonder it was greeted with a standing ovation at the end.

But for me the highlight was the encore, her own composition.  Not a rock number, but quiet and exquisitely tuneful, a response to the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida two years ago.  Ms Steele wears her lesbian heart on her sleeve, but it is worn lightly, and in no way detracts from the sheer enjoyment of this exhilarating show.