Tuesday 11 May 2010

I Live in Trafalgar Square

“My last ‘digs’ were on the Embankment. The third seat from Waterloo Bridge! But the cooking and, oh!, the attendance, didn’t happen to suit me so well. So I ordered my man to pack up and look out for another hotel ...” sings the splendid Ian Whitcomb on his interpretation of the old Music Hall classic I Live In Trafalgar Square which has the lovely subtitle of The Optimistic Outcast. It comes from Ian’s CD/Songbook Titanic Tunes where he recreates an impromptu ‘knees-up’ that took place in the steerage lounge of the doomed ship on the evening before the disaster. An American vaudeville act returning home, the Musical Murrays, was playing a mix of ragtime and music hall numbers they’d fallen in love with while in the UK. The audience would have been largely Eastern European immigrants whirling around the dancefloor. Ian takes on the role of Mr Mortimer St John of Mornington Crescent, “a delineator of high-class ballads, tragedian and dramatic monologist”, who may just have helped out with a spot of singing on the night, displaying an unexpectedly authentic Cockney tone at times. It’s great stuff, and a treasure chest of London songs. Proceedings end with Ian performing Albert Chevalier’s A Fallen Star which includes the lines: “I do not wish to gas. I merely state in self-defence the denizens of New Cut thought my Hamlet was immense”. Of course US audiences thought Ian was immense too ...

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