Prior to a national tour
MISS HOPE SPRINGS…RECOVERING SHOWGIRL
Written and Performed by Ty Jeffries
Music and Lyrics by Ty Jeffries
The Drillhall - Drillhall 2
3 - 6 November 2010
A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!
This show is described as ‘one woman’s journey from the Ritz to the pits,’ but Miss Hope Springs is nonetheless, fabulous and that means Ty Jeffries, her creator, is fabulous too! Every gesture and movement Jeffries makes as Hope is rife with the wealth of experience. Small wonder, as Jeffries, son of late stage and screen star (and director) Lionel Jeffries, grew up in Tinseltown, rubbing shoulders, as he says, with the likes of ‘Shirley MacLaine, Shelly Winters, Diana Dors and Patricia Neal’ and no doubt, many other larger than life screen stars. Miss Hope Springs...Recovering Showgirl is Jeffries’ tribute to that bygone, but never forgotten era.
Having grown up on black and white movies packed with drama and glamour, I was eager to enter Miss Hope Springs’ colourful world, and Jeffries made that easy through personable, seemingly, straight forward banter, self-depreciating jokes and most of all, emotive performing of his own, wonderfully human songs. When one song ended and the next began, always, after a brief interlude of conversation (at least that’s the way it felt) with the audience, it was amazing to think that each one was a gem, in every way, with its’ ever so true lyrics, expressive, versatile piano playing and heartfelt delivery, whether it was the peppy optimism of ‘Assets’ or the very lovely swan song, ‘Welcome to the Carnival,’ with its tawdry, Weimer-esque shadings. I honestly can’t remember when I’ve heard a better collection of songs I’d never heard of before. If anything I’ve heard recently measured up in anyway, it wasn’t in English. I say that because I often review World Music CDs, the music of which is totally unknown to me, and in such cases, I am working on instinct and feelings alone. Jeffries’ music is full of instinctual feeling.
Miss Spring is always, even in moments of resigned, philosophical humour, a figure we can all recognise and take to our hearts, and that is the thing that makes Jeffries creation so great, through all the songs, jokes and moments of wistful longing. Sure, ‘aged champagne’ is fine, but is it really better than the ‘cherry wine of April’? we wonder, as Hope sings of the pros and cons of aging gracefully and naturally. Professing she is never one to go for plastic surgery, Hope confesses that her husband Irving has left her – for another man. Apparently he and Carlos were always in the pool house together anyway. C'est la vie.
Jeffries/Hope was accompanied by Sam Glasson on drums and Ian McCallum on bass, two competent musicians who were cheerfully overshadowed at all times by Jeffries’ towering talent. He’s a force to be reckoned with on piano, as well as being one who can really deliver when it comes to expressing the story behind a song. Jeffries’ song-writing, singing, musicianship and acting talents are such that if he wanted to, he could easily place Miss Hope at the centre of a larger scale show about her and, growing older, a topic that was touched upon very well in La Cage Aux Follies but is still one that is, for the most part, under-explored, especially as it relates to women, who, if the media have their way, tend to either become nearly invisible, once they pass a certain age and their inherent glamour fades, or befuddled (and/or bossy) stereotypes.
But hey, I haven’t mentioned the glamour of this show yet! Miss Hope Springs was absolutely resplendent in a black cocktail dress with a floaty, feathery hemline, huge ‘diamond’ earrings and masses of curled, blonde hair, piled high. And we mustn’t forget the makeup, which was skilfully and heavily applied, from streaks of smoky shadow, black eyeliner, and false eye lashes so fluttery they were like fans, making her eyes stand out to the back of the room, to glossy, flesh toned lips. And even though Hope kept telling us people always mistake her for a man because of her height, at times, Jeffries as Hope, really seemed like a fading female star. No doubt Jeffries’ experiences as a model for British, French, Italian and American Vogue and, catwalk model for Jean Paul Gautier (the first with a shaved head) in the ‘80’s also inform his tragic-comic vision (and our view) of Hope as a former race-horse drifting toward the glue factory so succinctly captured here. In hindsight, all I can say is I’m sorry I missed Jeffries Joan Crawford themed show, Portrait of Joan, though Jeffries more than alludes to the formidable Ms. Crawford with his hilarious song, ‘Trog’, which in turn alludes to her final film, Trog (1970).
The ‘room’, that Hope quipped, was small for the ‘Royal Festival Hall,’ which hubby/manager Irving had allegedly booked, was actually Studio 2 in the basement of the Drill Hall, where, if they’re lucky, they might be able to fit upwards of 50-60 people. Though I’m sure the house will be packed every night once word gets out, word of mouth still being the best advertising. So go on, grab a ticket. Like Hope’s mother Rusty always said, ‘You never know until you try.’
From what I’ve seen of this Diva, the five star Brighton Fringe reviews are more than warranted. Jeffries, who started playing piano and composing at the age of five, went on to win a place at Purcell School of Music at thirteen. After which, he began to play and compose professionally, and after listening to some of his solo piano compositions online last night, and seeing his Miss Springs, I have to say that Jeffries’ is a phenomena waiting to happen, and a versatile one at that. Now a resident of Brighton, his Miss Springs was thoroughly convincing when she gushed about how glad she was to be ‘back in this country...beautiful Basingstoke...’look of disgust-big laugh. But the laughs were all on cue as Jeffries’ delivery is the perfect blend of dead-pan, waiting for the pay-back from the punch-line, every time. Likewise his moments of pathos, which convince, and immediately draw the desired response, especially when Hope does a, what the hell about-face into something as endearingly kitsch as ‘Jazz Waltz.’ But we don’t mind being lead by the likes of Miss Hope Springs, a bit of a mess maybe, (who isn’t?) but in Jeffries’ hit show, an aging, kind hearted gal with a knack for picking the wrong man. I can dig it, and everyone in the audience last night did too, cheering, whistling and shouting their support.
So this show is essentially, a semi-private audience with a bona fide diva who’s the creation of a man with a whole array of affectionate axes to grind, a very talented someone who loves and remembers those days – the days when stars were not something we all aspired to being, because your favourite star was always, in a class of his or her own – like Miss Hope Springs.
The Pink Pelican Casino’s loss is definitely our gain.
Box Office: 020 7307 5060
£10 (£8 concessions)
The Drill Hall, 16 Chenies Street, London WC1E 7EX
3 – 6 November 2010 at 8pm
venue: The Brighton Ballroom,
St Georges St, Kemptown, Brighton BN2 1EF
dates and times: 25 November 2010 at 8.30pm
ticket price: £10 (£8 concessions)
box office: 01273 605 789 or www.brightonballroom.com
venue: The Pheasantry,
at Pizza Express, 152 Kings Road, London, SW3 4UT
dates and times: 20 January 2011 at 8.30pm
ticket price: £17.50
box office: 0845 6027 017or pizzaexpresslive.com
venue: The Ludlow Assembly Rooms,
1 Mill Street, Ludlow, Shropshire SY8 1AZ
dates and times: 28 January 2011 at 8pm
ticket price: £12 (£10 concessions)
box office: 01584 878141 or www.ludlowassemblyrooms.co.uk
venue: The Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham by Sea, East Sussex
dates and times: 5 February 2011 at 8pm
ticket price: £10 (concessions £8)
box office: 01273 464440 or ropetacklecentre.co.uk
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