Aimi MacDonald: This Is How I Did It

Aimi MacDonald

This Is How I Did It

Live at Zédel at the Crazy Coqs, London, U.K., June 15, 2018

Review by Thanasis Kalantzis for Cabaret Scenes

Aimi MacDonald
Photo: Bhakti Arts

Last week, Live at Zédel invited to its stage “The Lovely” Aimi MacDonald. I call her lovely not just because she simply is, but also because she was known as such during the ’60s TV hit At Last the 1948 Show when she became a household name and famously had her own catch-phrase (“D’you know what I mean, darling!”).

She studied classical and modern dancing, starting as a young dancer in Parisian night clubs, moving on to the glitz of Las Vegas, and then back to London where she appeared on TV, on stage, and in films next to names like John Cleese, Roger Moore, and Oliver Reed. In her show, This Is How I Did It, through memories and song, she guided us through her decades-long career, the people she met along the way, some stories and jokes, while her repertoire was handpicked to artfully connect the dots and bring us closer to her story.

She started with the bittersweet “I’m Still Here,” perfectly encapsulating her thirst for the biz and vivacious spirit, and continued with “I Love a Piano” (even if she can’t play it) that oozed natural sense of humor.

With her unique little girl, slightly breathy voice, she sang a great “Broadway Baby” and a hot “All That Jazz,” while the room radiated with her smile in “I Enjoy Being a Girl.” Later on, she performed two Dolly Parton songs, the uplifting “Applejack” and the beautiful, storytelling ballad “To Daddy.

” For her last song she did “With One Look” and, for her encore, “Whatever Time I Have” (Mrs. Henderson Presents).

MacDonald is gifted with an effervescent personality that transmits everything she is feeling at the time, exuding natural warmth. Her smile, demeanor, and stage presence, along with her patter and choice of songs, were there to sincerely, unpretentiously, tell us more about who she is and outline her journey so far.

She is comfortable looking back and having a good laugh, for she has nothing to regret. Furthermore, she is able to fully interpret each song, go to its core, and deliver its goods, transforming it into something real, heartfelt and genuine.

From a technical perspective, some high notes felt forced and slightly unbalanced. Also, some stories and jokes were broad and could have been shorter. The performer, helped by her personality and vast experience, fills and owns the stage; nevertheless, it’s worth wondering if a director’s touch would be beneficial in better framing the show to make it run more smoothly.

Bubbly, funny, and all round great fun, This Is How I Did It opens up a window into the performer’s world and delivers exactly what it promises: an account of a life-long dedication by an artist who defined an era and has a story to tell.

Supporting the artist, music director Trevor Defferd played a great piano throughout.

Thanasis Kalantzis

Thanasis started reviewing for Cabaret Scenes in 2012. He started by reviewing primarily jazz and cabaret artists visiting from the U.S., but these days, he concentrates on British talent. Recently, he added covering musical theater to his duties. He was born in the heart of rural Greece in 1967. He studied Archaeology at the University of Thessaloniki, worked as an excavator in the prehistoric town of Akrotiri, Santorini, and then spent two years on the beautiful island of Crete excavating a Roman village, among other sites. In 1991 he moved to London to study for his MA in Archaeology at University College London thinking that, upon completion, he’d return to Greece and continue with his excavation work. Nevertheless, he gave this amazingly diverse city a go, and started working with various companies, including the Horniman Museum, Sotheby’s and, most recently, the Big Lottery Fund, the organization that allocates lottery funds to arts and charities. His been in London for 26 years, and is happily married to his husband and runs a small, successful business.