Review: John Standing

Originally reviewed for

On one of the funnier episodes of Will & Grace Lorraine said to Will: “You’re a natty dresser. Are you English?” To which Will responded: “Oh, no, I’m gay.” “Well, it’s the same thing.” Playwright, songwriter and singer Noël Coward, being both English and gay, was very English and very gay.

John Standing, currently performing Coward songs at the Café Carlyle, may not be gay, but he is himself so incredibly English that he is more than comfortable with Coward’s gayness. On the night that I was there, Standing got a testimonial from no less than Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York — that’s right, kids, the original Fergie. That’s how damn English Standing is.

Standing has no problem putting Coward’s gayest lyrics up front and center. He opens the show speaking the lyrics of “I’ve Been to a Marvelous Party,” all of them; several of the less often heard ones are homoerotic double entendres (or even single entendres). Standing delivers them with panache almost equal to Coward’s own. He seems very nearly as racy, worldly and sophisticated as Noël, whom John first met at the age of ten (Standing’s mother, Kay Hammond, played Elvira in the original Broadway production of Blithe Spirit).

Standing readily admits that he has “a voice like a shoe”. That’s not really a problem, however, since he acts every lyric with great style and intelligence (Coward himself had only a serviceable, if expressive, voice). Wit flows and sparkles like champagne in this show and Standing’s deep affection for both Coward and his songs shines through. Fun just doesn’t get more chic than this.

For tickets, click here.

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