Ty Jeffries on Hanging Up His Heels

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Ty Jeffries on Hanging Up His Heels

By Helen Theophanos

Ty Jeffries

His godmother was Ada “Bricktop” Smith, he danced down Sunset Boulevard with Fred Astaire, he had afternoon tea with Margaret Rutherford, he cruised The Med with Dali and Gala, he swam at Chateaux Marmont with Franco Nero, he was serenaded by Maurice Chevalier, and he went to church with Rosalind Russell. But no, we are not talking about Zelig! The artist in question is British singer/songwriter and comic entertainer Ty Jeffries.

After an unprecedented 12 years’ residency at London’s premiere cabaret room Crazy Coqs in Piccadilly, Ty (the son of the late, great British screen actor, writer, and director Lionel Jeffries) is retiring his “cult creation” Miss Hope Springs and hanging up her heels to work on his own career! Educated at the prestigious Purcell School of Music, Ty was taught his first jazz piano chords by actor Sir John Mills and was further encouraged by Elmer Bernstein. In the 1980s he was mentored by Vangelis and was also signed to Sir Elton John’s Rocket Music. Playing the piano and singing at the celebrated Langan’s Brasserie in Mayfair at the age of 21 was the start of his cabaret career. In 2012, Ty’s tragi-comic piano-playing drag persona Hope opened the newly constructed Crazy Coqs for the owners Jeremy King and Chris Corbin. Since then, in one guise or another, he has been a popular headline attraction.

Hailed as “The Rolls -Royce of drag acts” by BritishTheatre.com, Hope—vulnerable, nuanced, funny, and moving, down-on-her-luck fading glamorpuss—was a long way from the current Ru Paul Drag Race iteration of female impersonation. The Times of London said, “It’s a measure of how effortlessly Ty Jeffries inhabits his character that for long stretches of his show you forget that you are watching a female impersonator at work.”

Ty as Miss Hope Springs

Hope was an affectionate musical evocation of Ty’s icons which included Peggy Lee, Blossom Dearie, Lotte Lenya, and even Victor Borge. She’s a rounded character-study homage to showbiz troupers of a certain age—warts and all. But it was a demanding role, and after a dozen years at the top of his game, Ty felt it was time to bring the curtain down. As he wryly says, “I suspect even Laurence Olivier could not have sustained playing Richard the Third for twelve years on the trot.”

New York cabaret aficionado Gerry Geddes, who wrote about Ty’s work for Bistro Awards.com said, “song after song attests to (his) ability to evoke the style and substance of classic cabaret songs of the past while remaining a total original. There are echoes of Coward and Porter and Grand and Harnick and Sondheim in terms of vocal dexterity and infectious accompaniment, but the show is like finding a treasure trove of new special material, ready to be immortalized by cabaret and piano-bar performers the world over.” An invitation from John Gilhooley, CBE, the director of London’s legendary Wigmore Hall, to perform there in 2017 is testament to the high regard in which Ty’s work is held. It is a relationship that continues to this day with his various concerts over the intervening years (including a filmed solo performance for their 2021 Pride Month celebrations). A return visit is booked for the 2024 summer Lates season, this time as himself. Ty is one of a limited number of not-strictly-classical artists, including David Bowie, who have been honored to play that iconic and historic London venue. Manhattan cabaret grandee Sidney Myer picked up on Ty’s song “Nothing for You” last year which he has been performing in his acclaimed show. The song, which was a MAC Dottie Burman competition entry, was mentioned as a highlight in numerous reviews. British jazz legend Claire Martin, OBE, covered Ty’s song “It’s All Latin to Me” in the EFG London Jazz Festival and has just recorded another Jeffries gem, “Water and Salt,” for her next album.

Emerging from the statuesque shadow of his creation (both physically and metaphorically), the multi-talented pianist, composer, lyricist, and songwriter is now performing simply as himself. Ty Sings Ty has been seen at Crazy Coqs a number of times over the past few years, and it was recently filmed, along with a Hope show, for Michigan University’s Distinguished Speakers season, set to air in the spring.

In wrapping it up, Ty says “It’s always been about the songs, and via Miss Hope Springs, I have been blessed to be able to share them with audiences for over a decade. But it’s time to let the work speak for itself, without the bells and whistles of an alter-ego. As myself I can talk about more personal and autobiographical things. She was the butterfly, and I must now shed the wings and continue the journey on foot—in flats! It’s time to pack away the sequins. From now on I will be doing my glittering from the inside.” Ty Jeffries may be hanging up the heels, but his songs will live on. You can see Ty sings Ty at Crazy Coqs Friday March 22,and Saturday April 27 at 7pm and at Wigmore Hall Friday June 7 at 10pm. Tickets are available at www.tyjeffries.com/shows

Helen Theophanous

Helen Theophanous is half Greek/half Irish and studied music at Goldsmiths' and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She has performed classical works and lead roles in musical theater. Following a career in Education Management, Helen studied jazz with Lea DeLaria and performs in major London venues, appearing regularly at Ronnie Scott's Bar with the resident trio with whom she made her album “Amici.” Her recent Bacharach show was launched at the Crazy Coqs, where Helen occasionally hosts the late night Open Mic. Clare Martin OBE said of Helen's voice “ ...stunning and classy ..with drama and presence...”