Diana Sheehan in <em>Searching for Gertrude Lawrence</em>

Loop Review: Searching for Gertrude Lawrence

Through 21 songs, Diana Sheehan tributes the great musical theater star Gertrude Lawrence.

published Thursday, March 13, 2014

Photo: Mark Oristano
Diana Sheehan in Searching for Gertrude Lawrence

Addison — “Who remembers Gertrude Lawrence?” muses singer Diana Sheehan early in her cabaret set at the 2014 Out of the Loop Fringe Festival. Lawrence reigned as Amercia’s undisputed leading star and musical performance diva for over 30 years until cancer cut her career and life short in the 1950’s. “Kind of like Madonna, with better clothes and better music,” quips Sheehan with an ironic shrug. Most of the top playwrights, lyricists and composers of her time wrote major, award-winning shows for Lawrence (The King and I, to name one). But today, her name seems almost forgotten.

Not if Diana Sheehan can help it. Sheehan’s cabaret Searching for Gertrude Lawrence spans Lawrence’s career in a bold, clean, uncomplicated narrative format. It illustrates the power, charm and allure the singer possessed across a well-defined arc of 21 show-stopping musical numbers, each unique and brilliant. Delivering each song with breathtaking precision and honest emotion, Sheehan radiates her respect for the American icon while demonstrating her own merit as a song stylist of sophisticated skill and talent. It’s easy to see how her previous cabarets won Best of Loop Awards in 2012 and 2013. Sheehan builds from her earlier experiences, balancing exposition and gossipy tidbits expertly in context with each song’s sentiments.

Sheehan has admired Gertrude Lawrence since her teen years and began creating this cabaret back in the ’90s. Performed at Out of the Loop in the intimate Studio Theatre space, the music soars with decent acoustics. The superlative James McQuillen directed Sheehan, arranged the tunes and provides piano accompaniment with Rick Norman on upright bass. A trio of comely lads in dinner jackets appears “out of thin air” to sing back up on one number; and a certain handsome, well-known professional talent joins Sheehan as Noël Coward in the first set (in borrowed trousers opening night) to the delight of all in attendance. Now if only WaterTower would mount Coward’s play Private Lives and cast this perfectly matched duo.

Costumer John Ahrens constructs the quintessential classy visual with Sheehan’s attire as “Gertie.” In the first set, she performs in a pale, salmon-hued, drop-waisted, beaded vintage 1920’s frock, looking the eternal coquette, fresh but a bit past virginal. In the second set, she swoops back on stage wearing a daring, full-skirted, strapless ball gown in nude and black, with rhinestone bracelets for drama, securing her full-length black velvet gloves. It’s the perfect ensemble for her songs from The King and I. The entire cabaret exists as a close to perfect spirited homage to Gertrude Lawrence as one could imagine.

» Searching for Gertrude Lawrence repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 15; and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 16 in the Studio Theatre at the Addison Theatre Centre

» WaterTower Theatre's 2014 Out of the Loop Fringe Festival is 10 days of live theater, dance, music and visual art. To see the full schedule, go hereThanks For Reading

Click or Swipe to close
Loop Review: Searching for Gertrude Lawrence
Through 21 songs, Diana Sheehan tributes the great musical theater star Gertrude Lawrence.
by Alexandra Bonifield

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :