FRINGE REVIEW: Pam Lawson, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – A Celebration in Song

*****

It’s hard not to like Pam Lawson. As the audience is greeted by the soft, languid rendition of “I Won’t Dance” as they file in, Lawson meets them like old friends with a big smile and easy manner, setting the tone for the next hour. This show lives up to it’s subtitle as A Celebration In Song, and is an opportunity for the singer to share her love of the music from the classic 1930s films of Fred and Ginger. Interspersed with a witty narrative of anecdotes gleaned from autobiographies by the iconic Hollywood pair, Pam Lawson takes us through the music from the nine RKO Radio Pictures movies featuring the dancing duo. On a blank stage and backed brilliantly on piano by Tom Finlay, and on double bass by Ed Kelly, Pam Lawson, in a flowery tea-dress, invites the audience to sing along – or even dance if they dare. With the house lights up throughout, it feels almost like you are relaxing in your Granny’s living room on a rainy afternoon listening to music that never seems to age and will still get everyone’s toes tapping.

Lawson has a fine alto voice that skips happily along the bouncing melodies of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, though at times nerves show through during this opening performance with some of the higher, sustained notes missing their pitch slightly and the odd forgotten line. However, her friendly manner means you forgive the occasional slip, especially when she wraps you up in her velvety lower tones during a medley from 1937’s “Shall We Dance” composed by Gershwin. Opting for a clean sound with no noticeable reverberation coming through the small PA, the only textures in the vocals come from Lawson herself; her natural vibrato, hushed sultry air and occasional well placed stronger notes. Despite professing not to dance, Pam sashays across the stage during each number and even gets in a small tap routine: after all, as she says, you can’t do Fred and Ginger without one. Her diction is spot on and her animated delivery conveys the meaning of each song in a way that many singers struggle with. The highlight has to be the rendition of “Slap That Bass”, as the duet between Ed Kelly’s bass and Lawson’s voice during the introduction compliments each instrument wonderfully.

Pam Lawson clearly loves the repertoire she performs and her enthusiasm for the genre shines through the hour long show. For those who share this affection there is probably no better way to spend an afternoon than humming along with fingers drumming to the music of some of the greatest films from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

At Sweet Venues, 1415 hrs  (1515) Grassmarket until 9th August

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