Cabaret / Cybill Shepherd Cafe Royal, London

Cybill Shepherd has had more careers than other people have jobs. Long before Peter Bogdanovich turned her into a film star playing the flatlands, small-town slut in The Last Picture Show, her all-American face graced endless magazine covers and TV commercials. She made a handful of movies but despite shining in Scorsese's Taxi Driver, the cinema tired of her dangerously vapid charm. In 1985, TV beckoned her with Moonlighting and she was reborn. Then, in the Nineties, she won the ultimate American seal of approval: a TV sitcom bearing her name. It's a regular ratings winner and Cybill gets to do for the older single woman what Mary Tyler Moore did for the younger Sixties version.

And now she's in cabaret. Can she sing? Well, she wings her way through "Nice Work If You Can Get It" over the opening credits of Cybill every week, but the Gershwin song does her no favours. Nice enough, but the light swing you need for Thirties show songs isn't her strong suit. And if you don't believe me, take a (brief) look at her in Bogdanovich's 1975 clunker, the Cole Porter compilation movie At Long Last Love. No, this dame's much happier getting down to a little light rock, heating up "Mama's Cooking".

"There's an official 12 drink minimum," she announces. "The more you drink, the better I sound." She needn't worry. Alcohol or no, the packed room is more than happy to listen to her strut her stuff. Her smartest move is that she doesn't take herself seriously, and boy, is that rare on the cabaret circuit, overstocked as it is with would-be smouldering chanteuses. True, your first glimpse of her poured into a plunged neckline, floor-length, split-skirt, black number suggests the contrary, but soon she's switching from high heels into baseball pumps. "We know what women want," she declares, "comfortable shoes."

Shepherd knows she's not in Barbara Cook's league and she doesn't care. She's up there, jazzing away, kidding around and having a ball, launching herself into a mean, raunchy rendition of "Walking the Dog", part of a medley from her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. Her vocal range is surprisingly wide and the rock numbers show off the deeper, darker tones. She's less happy singing sentimental material higher up the register.

She doesn't get away with everything. "You Belong To Me", a duet with her musical director Robert Martin, sounds like one of those awful moments in a doomed love affair montage in a fifth-rate movie, but when she switches back to clowning around or slides through a lazy croon of "Blue Moon", everyone is happy. "Not bad," she grins, "46 years old and jumping up on to a piano," before scorching her way through "That's Life". Not bad indeed.

To Sat. Booking: 0171-437 9090

DAVID BENEDICT

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