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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Fascinating Aida - Barefaced Chic!
Touring 2000  (Reviewed at the Lyric Hammersmith, London)

Fascinating Aida is a female trio who sing self-written comic songs in a mock-feminist Tom Lehrer vein. They've been together, with occasional time off for individual careers and changes in the line-up, since 1983, and have a large and loyal fan base throughout Britain.

As with any act, they have established onstage personas that are part of the fun. Pianist Dillie Keane is the would-be sexy blonde who is just too ditzy to pull it off (Think early Streisand or Carol Burnett). Adele Anderson is the majestic soignée contralto, at her best when an elegant song suddenly turns bawdy. The third position, the short operatically-trained soprano befuddled to find herself in this setting, has been filled by several women over the years, and thereby hangs a lovely show biz tale.

The current tour features a new soprano, Charlotte Nytzen. But just before opening, she developed a throat infection that left her voiceless. So an emergency call went to Canada, where the original "third girl" Marilyn Cutts had just finished an engagement. Though she hadn't performed with the group since 1986, she flew in, learned the new material in three days, and is filling in until Charlotte is well.

Typical Fascinating Aida songs include "On the Piste," a Noel Coward-like account of low living among the upper crust (including a certain unnamed red-headed Duchess), and an anthem to the delight and exhaustion of having a man on Viagra. There are some old favourites, like the mock salute to highway rest stop restaurants, and their theme song solution to all of life's problems, "Sew on a Sequin."

Those who remember them from the 80s might sense a slight softening at the edges, with a bit less of the have-we-gone-too-far daring of their early material. But a song that questions the Princess Diana myth is certainly taking chances, and one about the difficulties of being politically correct when comfortably middle class has bite.

Old fans might also be a bit disoriented by a change in format. The first half of this new show is set in a dressing room, with an offstage pianist providing accompaniment, so the trio don't take on their familiar roles until after the interval (and Dillie doesn't sit down to the piano until the last 20 minutes).

Still, when they rhyme virgin with plastic surgeon (Don't ask) or include in a song about best-sellers the advice that your sales won't be flagging if you include a lot of shagging, or when their encore manages to parody Marlene Deitrich and Bob Fosse at the same time, they're clearly the sweet FA we love.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Fascinating Aida - 2000