Cabaret In Lauderdale House: Louise Gold
24th February 2002
Review by Emma Shane
© 25 February 2002si-language:EN-GB'>
After this she told us a bit about the occasion a few years ago when she worked on the Mike Leigh film Topsy Turvy, and how she thought the first thing she should do was learn The Mikado, only to be told by the director that it hadn’t been written yet. “Fortunately the Mikado has now been written” so Louise delighted us with a lovely sweet Gilbert and Sullivan song from it, The Sun Whose Rays. To sing this, Louise sat on a chair/stool by the piano, with her tailcoat draped over it. As a matter of fact, Louise already had some passing acquaintance with The Mikado, since she appeared in a spoof called The Metropolitan Mikado.
At the number’s conclusion, Louise slipped of her chair, walked round to the piano, and stood posed with her back to the audience, both arms stretched out along the piano, at last she turned to face us, and launched into a terrifically powerful torch number Lovers For A Day by Marguerite Monnot, whom, as she told us, she kept calling Madeline Monnot during the rehearsals. Louise proves to be an excellent torch singer, well able to convey emotion, using every skill in her possession, both her voice and body language. It is rare to find a performer who can convey so much to an audience with their body language. In fact, I can only think of one other actor who could do that anywhere near as well as Louise Gold can.
This was followed by a Sondheim medley, which Louise introduced by telling us that she has been in two Sondheim shows (actually if she were to count her performance in a revival of Side By Side it should be three), and the story about when she played Gussie in Merrily We Roll Along, where she shared a dressing room with Maria Friedman and Jacqueline Dankworth, and found that they all got the same note from Sondheim. She then describes the character of Gussie, where Jason interjects that the character is a “bitch”, Louise handles the heckle rather well. I don’t think anyone could ever upstage her, she’s far too alert and on the ball for that. She continues by describing her character in Assassins, Sarah Jane Moore, as “a few bullets short of a full chamber”, and finally launches into that character’s part of The Gun Song from Assassins, for this purposes she has brought along the appropriate props of a large bag containing various items. The number is followed by an excerpt of The Blob from Merrily We Roll Along. Next up we have a Sondheim song she hasn’t done in a show, Children Will Listen. This is Louise Gold at her most sincere. It is one of those thoughtful moments where one feels that she really and truly means what she is singing, she sings so absolutely from the heart. Louise Gold is very good at acting convincingly as if she means it, but sometimes she will sing a song with something a little more than convincing acting, and this seems to be one of those moments of genuine sincerity.
Louise Gold, however, is one of the West End’s most versatile actresses, and she is the sort of person to whom things happen. She tells us that when she was twenty she went along to an audition where “The leading lady was a pig, and the leading man was a frog”, she continues “The frog asked me if I could do silly voices, the pig asked me if I could keep my hands off the frog, and a large red pepper asked if I was over 5ft9.” Lifting her heels, so she is standing on tip toe, the actress, who is actually 5ft9”, says that luckily she was able to answer yes to all these questions, and then, as if we had not already guessed, explains that that is how she got to work on The Muppet Show, and they taught her to puppeteer and everything. She tells us a bit about how exciting it all was, and then bearing in mind how puppets can cross boundaries (from children to adults, languages, race, creed, colour) launches into a medley of songs from The Muppet Show. Our Muppeteer, who was after all one of ‘The Muppet Show Eight’, and among its major singing talents, starts and ends her Around The World With The Muppets medley with Its A Small World. She then launches into a number about The Girlfriend of The Whirling Dervish, in the middle of the song, she picks up a large yellow lamp and informs us that she has brought her own lighting so she can move among us, and proceeds to sing the song while walking down and up the aisle, shining the lamp on her face. Back at the front, this is followed by a typically Muppet Hawaiian War Chant (where her accent sounded a little like it could’ve been Annie Sue), and then a peculiarly Muppet song, Tico Tico, where she made a brave effort at fast tempo singing! Which was quite admirable, especially considering that really fast tempo singing is not exactly her forte, she actually handled it rather well.
Having by now ditched her tailcoat (I can’t quite remember when), revealing her broad well-built shoulders, it is time for the glorious Gold to change style again, having put her lamp down, she springs up onto the grand piano, to some applause (although, for her, this was an unadventurous piece of piano climbing), and proceeds to sing two songs written thirty years apart, that share the same stance on love. For the first of these, Cole Porter’s It’s Alright With Me, Louise lay on her back sprawled over the piano, for Someone To Lay Down Beside Me, a song by Karla Bonhoff, she lay sprawled on her right side (a position she is perhaps somewhat accustomed to - having had to sprawl like that when puppeteering, although not on top of a piano). Both songs were sung extremely well, as one would expect from the lovely Louise Gold.
Hopping down off the piano, Louise tells us that she has “been in a lot of rather weird shows”, and that Nunsense was one of the more normal ones. She tells us a bit about the background of that show, and then launches into her Nunsense Act 2 solo I Could’ve Gone To Nashville. Although, it is noticeable that she changed the Lincoln Continental lyric to another make of car (something like a Deluxe Winnebago). It is a great song and she really does it justice, especially with the way she works in little imitations of various country singers. Continuing the Nashville theme, she mentions the time she appeared in Noel/Cole: Let’s Do It in Memphis Tennessee, and how as a result of that, “besides an abiding love for the Muppets” there is one other thing she and her pianist Jason Carr share, she leaves the stage and Jason finishes the line “We are both honorary citizens of Memphis Tennessee and very proud of it.”
Someone says “She’s here”. At the piano Jason Carr strikes up a familiar tune, that of the British National Anthem (a tune which American’s will recognise as My Country is Of Thee, it is also used by various other countries as the tune for their National Anthem’s) and off-stage we can hear the distinctive sound of Louise Gold doing Spitting Image’s voice for The Queen. It is one of those various Spitting Image voices that that show’s Leading Puppeteer, actually devised, although it was subsequently done by two or three other actresses. (Personally I think the voice sounds a bit like one of the characters in Mike Leigh’s first film, Bleak Moments). On this particular occasion we are wondering why Louise is doing this voice, and then she enters, wearing on her left arm, Spitting Image’s latex puppet of The Queen! This was quite a surprise, for I am sure that most of us were not expecting puppetry to be part of this West End Cabaret act! Indeed it is quite possible, that until this moment some of the audience may not have been fully aware that Louise Gold is an experienced professional puppeteer. At any rate we certainly weren’t expecting a Spitting Image puppet! It is a ‘live hands’ puppet, so Louise has her right arm in the right sleeve hold of the puppet. The puppeteer then has her puppet perform a very Spitting Image sort of version of Class, which was certainly a good testimony to our puppeteer’s ability to sing in character, and puppeteer all at the same time. At this point Louise Gold is very much in her puppeteer’s guise, we can’t actually see her face, which is hidden by her large heavy puppet, she must be so fit and strong.
Having removed the puppet, the actress-who-sort-fell-into-puppetry returns to the stage and says that she “can see a few of you looking at your watches”, (I’m not sure that anyone actually was - as most of us don’t want the show to end), and that we are coming to the end of the show. With that she gives a few thank-yous, including one to her director Mr Nigel Plaskitt (who, although she doesn’t mention it, is actually quite a well-known puppeteering colleague of hers). Louise Gold introduces the final number, by acknowledging that it is the same one Gay Soper did here last week, but even so, she wants to do the song, and then, as fate would have it launches into I Am What I Am sandwiched between bits of If Love Were All. The songs, especially I Am What I Am are so perfect for her. Whatever else could be said about Louise Gold as a performer in general, and her performance this afternoon in particular, she is very much what she is. She ended the song with a little “hey ho” that sounded like an imitation of a Muppet (possibly Kermit!). The audience went pretty wild, and gave Louise thundering applause, as she disappeared off-stage quite quickly.
However she soon returned, this time wearing a cute little hand and rod puppet on her left arm. She hopped up onto the piano again, and there was such a cry of ahhs from the audience at her puppet, that the performer going quite emotional, and for the first few lines had some difficulty in attaining her full vocal powers. She recovered herself, however, she is a consummate professional and treated us to a stunning performance of Rainbow Connection by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher. Louise may not have been involved in the actual film this song was written for (The Muppet Movie - but that is only because it was made in the US rather than over here), however, as a not-insignificant member of The Muppet gang, she is undoubtedly one of the performers to whom this beautiful song truly belongs. Her singing of this number was excellent, as one would expect from the delightful Louise Gold. What is really incredible, vocally, is that she sang it as a duet with herself. Switching rapidly and cleanly between her own natural voice, and that of her puppet character. She sang about two thirds of the song as herself, and the other third in character. Yes Louise Gold is a fantastic singer, and when it comes to switching accents and styles quickly she is one of the very best there is. However, what really made this number something to remember is her puppeteering. Because this is a much more flexible puppet, than The Queen, it means that our star is able to really show off just how much talent she has in that skilful left-hand of hers, making her puppet into a believable character. It is noticeable that, like every experienced Henson-trained video-puppeteer she is well versed in the art of lip synching, with the proper ‘Henson punch’ which means that the lip-synch is about as near perfect as you can get. It was such a joy to watch the sheer graceful fluidity of her movements. I am sure that very few of us had ever had the privilege of watching as good a puppeteer, as she undoubtedly is, perform live before. Even more amazing was that this number is a rare moment to witness Louise Gold combining the two key elements of her career, being both a singing-actress and a singing-puppeteer all at the same time, now that really is something special. At the number’s conclusion there was well deserved thundering applause for Louise, which she and her puppet both acknowledged.
Mere words cannot really do justice to this fantastic show. It is one of those occasions when one really had to be there. There cannot be many West End Cabarets that also include puppetry, as if it is a totally natural part of it. In most shows, of this sort of nature, involving puppets would have been obviously a gimmick. Yet such is the professionalism with which Louise Gold performs, that the puppetry element of the show just seemed the most natural thing in the world to include. It is very unusual for her to puppeteer live on stage, as she is really a ‘video-puppeteer’, which means that she normally puppeteers watching her performance on a carefully positioned monitor in a film or television studio, along to a previously recorded soundtrack. Here she was on her own, and it is a testimony to her own skill and talent that she actually can rise to the occasion of puppeteering live on stage. The puppetry element provided us with a rare opportunity to see live one of Britain’s own top puppeteers actually puppeteering. Louise Gold, after all, was the first British puppeteer to work for Jim Henson, and the only British puppeteer to work on the greatest of all Henson productions, The Muppet Show.
Indeed Louise Gold is unique, she is her own special creation (well actually she’s her mother’s girl); and she is someone who bangs her own drum, whether it is with her puppeteering skills, her glorious singing voice that is such a pure joy to hear especially when (like on this occasion) she is unmiked, her flair for switching styles and accents very very quickly and effectively, or her gift for vocal mimicry and doing funny voices. One of the great things about watching Louise Gold mimic, is that when she does an impression she never goes too far, she always retains a bit of herself in the performance. For example, one of the few criticisms I would make of Jessica Martin, another excellent mimic, is that when she mimics there is sometimes too much impression and not enough of Jessica! With Louise Gold there is no such problem. Louise Gold is just an incredible consummate performer, be it: as a singer, as an actress, and as a puppeteer, and this show gave her a chance to shine in all her glory. She really should be given more opportunities to do shows like this, because she is one of the most talented and charismatic performers around. She is someone who always gives the audience one hundred and ten, or even one hundred and twenty percent. There is a danger with performer oriented cabarets, whose theme is basically that of their star, they could be dull, when the performer is no longer hiding behind a character, but Louise Gold is such an invigorating energetic breath of fresh air that when she is on the stage there is absolutely no danger of becoming board. This production was a wonderful one for her, because she carried it so well and it brought out all her talents, but above all because it is her show, and besides her tremendous talent it is her warm-hearted extraordinary personality that really shines though. For once she truly is what she is and it is a great honour and privilege to have this opportunity to watch Miss Louise Gold as herself.
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