Jermyn Street Theatre June 2009
Christine Pedi first came to London and the Jermyn Street Theatre ten years ago in the very witty and highly successful revue Forbidden Broadway, which had then been running seemingly forever in New York.
That show, constantly changing its program, is a brilliant send-up of Broadway productions and Broadway stars. Forbidden Broadway is still running in New York, and the good news is that it will shortly be back in London, this time at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
Christine Pedi in 1999 had already been with the show for a very long time and had won many awards. She gave a hilarious impression of a manic Lisa Minelli talking ten to the dozen, was very funny as a sodden, gravel-voiced Elaine Stritch, and I can still see her lip-smeared, growling Carol Channing.
Pedi returns to Jermyn Street in a very disappointing and lacklustre one-woman show. Her repertoire includes Julie Andrews, Ethel Merman, Barbra Streisand and Cher, but without Forbidden Broadway's witty revue context, without the costumes, without the wigs and make-up, her caricatures haven't the same impact.
And Grand Dames is a misleading title for the show, since only a small part is devoted to her impersonations.
Pedi has brought along her parents, who are also her producers. Mom and Dad clap every song enthusiastically, the banter between parents and child is embarrassing, and Mom even takes photographs during the show.
Revue has long been dead in London, which could do with a cult show like Forbidden Broadway, and the Jermyn Street Theatre would be the ideal place for it. As part of an ensemble Pedi is absolutely fine. But on her own, and for 90 continuous minutes, in a sparse auditorium, she is just not good enough. Her proper venue is a 20-minute cabaret spot in a packed restaurant.
Review of Great Dames - Jermyn Street Theatre 2009