Metropolitan Room, NYC, January 18, 2017
Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes
For those who love British humour [sic], especially satire, Melinda Hughes is just the ticket. She is made in the mold of the glorious Beatrice Lillie and the wonderfully droll Anna Russell, who also sang, composed and wrote material guaranteed to elicit hearty guffaws. Hughes, who writes with pianist and comedian Jeremy Limb, has that perfect British bearing and diction for barbed wit and wry send-up with deadpan hilarity. The duo’s “This Is My Opening Song” (a spoof of Broadway opening numbers), “Britannia Waives the Rules” (differences in U.S. and U.K. language) and “Country Estate” (reasons to reject a posh weekend in the country) were all side-splitters. “The Selfie Song” (with additional lyrics by Lloyd Evans) was especially hilarious, particularly when Hughes descended into the audience to take selfies with a few patrons. “Tweets in the Night” (to the tune of “Blues in the Night”—with additional lyrics by Evans) revealed a capacity for biting (and dead funny) political satire.
Besides being a natural at stand-up, Hughes has a serious side: she’s an especial fan of Mischa Spoliansky, the versatile Russian-Jewish musician-composer who was forced to flee his homeland, cut a wide swath through Europe and ended his days working in England. She ably sang Spoliansky’s “The Smart Set” and “I Am a Vamp.” Citing his “Das Lila Lied,” written in 1920, as possibly the first gay anthem, Hughes delivered the number in German and English with pathos, gliding effortlessly into Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” “Stolperstein” (Hughes/Limb) about Margo Lion (who was married to Spoliansky’s lyricist, Marcellus Schiffer) was searingly poignant in its commemoration of Nazi persecution. The duo’s “We’ve Been Here Before” (inspired by the opera The Makropulos Case by Leoš Janáček) in the style of Kurt Weill/Weimar Berlin, poignantly presented the lament of a woman who lives to see history repeat itself.
It was the encore that showcased Hughes’ classical training. A bona fide opera singer, she artfully rendered Ernest Charles’ “When I Have Sung My Songs to You” in a powerful lyric soprano. Hughes was accompanied by Musical Director/pianist David Shenton, Mark Wade on double bass, and Doug Yowell, whose exclusive use of brushes on the drums was the perfect choice for Hughes’ material.