Geraldine Turner: Turner’s Turn

Hayes Theatre, February 22

Turner copy
Photo: Kurt Sneddon.

Starting a cabaret show with Rose’s Turn from Gypsy is certainly a statement. Larger than life and built for belting Ethel Merman-style, this emotional big dipper shouts at the audience, “Hey! Listen! Where most people end their shows is where I begin!” Daring to test one’s vocal chords with it first up demands a certain chutzpah, just as the role itself demands a brassy swagger.

Geraldine Turner may not have performed a cabaret show for a decade, but she hasn’t lost those qualities.

Such a climactic opening had one mentally flicking through the Broadway songbook wondering how she would top it, and in the event she did not until the end, when she unleashed a thrilling rendition of Brel’s Carousel, made all the more surreal and compelling for being enacted with the jerky motions of a doll.

Between these memorable bookends Turner trawled through her substantial career, fleshing out the show with entertaining anecdotes of the highs and lows of treading the boards. She breathed poignant life into Brel’s seldom heard Mon enfance, and poured herself into Ne me quitte pas. Both were sung in English, which worked well for the former, but the latter always seems more potent in its French guise. It did, however, feature beautifully restrained piano from musical director Brad Miller.

An extensive medley nodded to her roles in Chicago, Guys and Dolls, Oliver, Sweeney Todd, Anything Goes and more, but the song snippets were frustratingly short. She had fun with such comic Sondheim songs as The Boy From… and I Never Do Anything Twice, but delivered an oddly unaffecting Send In The Clowns. Perhaps a knockout blow was sought too keenly. She was much more assured realising Jerry Herman’s haunting If He Walked Into My Life.

The pitching of too many long notes was uncomfortably insecure, a problem sidestepped in a rapid-fire lyric like Carousel. Her skills as an actress partly distracted from this flaw, aided by Caroline Stacey’s astute direction.

Also on March 8.