Julie Wilson and Steve Ross | Pizza On The Park, London

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The Independent Culture

The trouble with going to hear Julie Wilson and Steve Ross is that they make you want to move house. Two songs in and you're dreaming of throwing a marvellous party in a glittering ballroom where, for a suitably enormous fee, these two would stun your shiveringly glamorous guests with their drop-dead sophistication.

The trouble with going to hear Julie Wilson and Steve Ross is that they make you want to move house. Two songs in and you're dreaming of throwing a marvellous party in a glittering ballroom where, for a suitably enormous fee, these two would stun your shiveringly glamorous guests with their drop-dead sophistication.

Hearing them in 2000 also has the thoroughly unusual effect of making you wish you were older. That way, you reason, you would have seen them in their prime.

I mean, Julie Wilson is 74 for goodness sake. She first sang here a shocking 50 years ago as Bianca in London's Kiss Me Kate. Ross, who clearly has a very nasty picture hidden in his attic, is a generation down from there but still looks almost alarmingly boyish, like a cross between Darren from TV's Bewitched - complete with jutting jawline - and Buzz Lightyear. Yet it isn't long before it dawns on you that far from being a little late, this really is their prime. If you're going to tease truth and tunes out of the Cole Porter and Cy Coleman songbooks, then experience is going to win out over youth hands down.

Ross really does know a fine way to treat a Steinway and is almost profligate about it. He just touches subtle colours and flavours into individual phrases or whips up ornate comic flourishes and rhythmic shifts in support of an individual lyric. Better still, unlike nearly all the other pianist/singers at the smart end of cabaret, he doesn't appear to want to be Mame.

Too many of this select group secretly wish they could get out from behind the keyboard to deliver great big belting numbers. Ross, however, sings with wit, reserve and restraint. Neither he nor Wilson have honeyed tones, but their buoyant, bittersweet touch is Midas-like and makes even well-known material glow.

Noël Coward once wrote, "Life is very rough and tumble/ For a humble diseuse". Well, there's nothing rough and tumble about Julie Wilson. She ain't so humble either, but then when you emerge from Omaha (Nebraska) with as much sheer class as she's got, it's only fair that you should flaunt it in front of audiences for a living. But if that suggests Shirley Bassey-style bombast, think again.

Her quavery but powerful voice may sometimes be close to a growl these days, but goodness this woman knows how to work it - and an audience. Stick-thin in a black sheath dress and black lace gloves, she swathes herself is a fuschia boa to dawdle deliciously through Porter's "The Laziest Girl in Town".

As Wilson observes, although Dietrich made the song famous in Hitchcock's Stage Fright, it's impossible to imagine her afraid of anything. What's touching about Wilson is that she's far less imperious and impervious. She's fragile and extremely serious about music and lyrics but, and this is a rare quality, she doesn't take herself too seriously. I suggest you rush to book the last remaining tickets.

To 16 Sept (020-7235 5273)

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