Life's a cabaret with the Crazy gang


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The Independent Culture

It's not just the West End musical Cabaret starring Will Young that is back with a bang – cabaret in London is also having a big revival. Since the summer, new cabaret venues have sprung up at St James Theatre, the Lucky Pig Cocktail Bar, The Matcham Room at the Hippodrome Casino, the Savoy and Kettner's. When Pizza on the Park closed in 2010, London was left with few places to go – other than to its successor the Pheasantry in the King's Road.

The newest addition is the Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel in London's Piccadilly, an art deco cabaret jazz room, which seats about 70 people. This is the latest venture from Jeremy King and Chris Corbin, who own the Wolseley and Delaunay. Their autumn season includes many cabaret stars from America, including Karen Akers, who pays homage to Cole Porter. Other top US acts include Karen Oberlin, KT Sullivan and Steve Ross.

London-based Issy Van Randwyck, who was a member of cabaret group Fascinating Aïda in the 1990s, brings her show of obscure songs Bright Lights and Promises to the Crazy Coqs next month. “It's great the big cabaret stars come from America – they show us how to do it,” she says.

Cabaret expert and writer, Ruth Leon, who has been drafted in to bring the best cabaret acts to the Crazy Coqs, regularly crosses the Atlantic in her search. “We were all depressed when Pizza on the Park closed. London will have the opportunity to see the best of New York cabaret at the Crazy Coqs.”

Leigh Thompson, executive producer of West End Sundays at Fitzrovia's the Lucky Pig, which started last month, recruited West End star Rosemary Ashe, who was the original Carlotta in The Phantom of the Opera and Sophie-Louise Dann of Lend Me a Tenor fame to headline.

“A lot of West End actors have been out of work – so people are starting to create their own work,” says Thompson. “Some West End actors in long-running shows like a change.”

Last weekend, cabaret kicked off at the St James Theatre with Sharon D Clarke who originating the role of Oda Mae Brown in Ghost the Musical. Sarah-Louise Young will bring Cabaret Whore in December – a character comedy packed with original songs.

“With new cabaret venues opening, there is a bit of a debate about what is cabaret,” says James Albrecht, associate artistic director of St James Theatre. “There are definitely more cross-over acts on our menu.”

Karen Akers, the Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel, London W1 ( 30 October to 3 November