Cabaret: Liliane Montevecchi Jermyn Street Theatre, London

In 1982, Liliane Montevecchi pitched up in Manhattan and called her New York agent - "he was not dead yet" - after a 30-year silence. He suggested she audition for Tommy Tune's new musical, Nine. "I've never been to an audition in my life," she replied. "I'm a star."

As Stephen Sondheim wrote in Gypsy, "You either got it or ya' ain't and, boys, I got it." Not only that, Montevecchi is eager to flaunt it. Discovered in a pencil spotlight leaning seductively against a doorpost, she's clad in figure-hugging velvet that reaches little further than her wasp waist. Her legs, as Larry Gelbart put it in City of Angels, "Go all the way down to the floor." If she were 40, she'd be looking good. At 65, she's spectacular.

A prima ballerina for Roland Petit at 18, she went to MGM on a seven- year contract. Fritz Lang directed her first film and she also appeared with Brando, Astaire and Elvis Presley. Returning to Paris, she led the Folies Bergere for six years and in the late 1980s delivered a rip-roaring rendition of "Ah, Paree" in the celebrated concert version of Sondheim's Follies.

She retains the kind of guttural French accent last heard in Gigi. Full, long dramatic vowels, deliciously spat consonants and gurgling rolled Rs which shimmy into a gorgeously filthy laugh that punctuates her programme of songs by the likes of Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour and Cole Porter. The danger of performing your own retrospective is that the whole affair can turn over-serious, but just when you think you are in for a bout of professional warmth peppered with smooth, slick renditions of career highlights, she bats her mascara'd eyelashes and cracks jokes.

The simplicity of her take on the French favourites "Autumn Leaves" and "Ne Me Quitte Pas" is a great relief after endless hand-wringing, curdling renditions by all too many nightclub acts, and she even gets away with a swift tribute to heroines including Josephine Baker, Mistinguett ("Mon Homme") and Piaf ("La Vie en Rose"). She brings a sophisticated air of bafflement to Sondheim's story of sexual peccadilloes in "I Never Do Anything Twice" and goes full throttle with Jerry Herman's "I Don't Want to Know" from Dear World.

The problem with the evening is the space. Intimate theatre is one thing but there isn't even enough room for a grand piano, although her pianist and musical director Barrie Bignold does his considerable best at an upright with or without the gazelle-like Montevecchi perched upon it. She clearly adores being almost literally in people's laps, but when such a petite woman is so much larger than life, you wish she had the room really to let rip.

To 23 June (0171-287 2875)

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

    Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
    Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

    Are you a 50-center?

    Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
    The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

    Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

    The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
    Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

    Hollywood's new diet trends

    Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works