Cabaret Review: Our Lady J @ Soho Theatre

Franco Milazzo
By Franco Milazzo Last edited 90 months ago
Cabaret Review: Our Lady J @ Soho Theatre

ladyj.jpeg With much of the local cabaret talent busy at one fringe or another, the Soho Theatre has drafted in renowned New York singer Lady J and her "Gospel for the Godless" for a fortnight.

She is back in London to make her headlining debut after playing at the South Bank's Purcell Room last year. The ad hoc choir formed last year by Leigh Thompson specifically for those performances is now called The London Show Choir and joins her again. For her shows, Lady J has cheekily rechristened them the Train-To-Kill Gospel Choir, a nod towards one of her songs which could be best described as Sister Act-meets-Heavy Metal Jacket.

Lady J, a tattooed transexual troubadour (or, more properly, a trobairitz) and Harry Potter fan, has worked with the likes of Lady Gaga, Cyndi Lauper and Debbie Harry. Her most famed celebrity connection, though, is with Dolly Parton who inspired her early musical education. Lady J repays the favour by covering Parton's Light Of A Clear Blue Morning, a song which doesn't actually say much but says what it does say very powerfully. This is in direct contrast to Lady J's own compositions, some of which come across as bizarre mawkish throwbacks to 1980s famine-relief charity singles and include titles like "Africa - will you teach us to walk again?" These songs jar especially when played alongside punchier numbers like Pink Prada Purse and Train To Kill.

Nice touches include Lady J calling out the names of each and every one of the 14-strong choir. The choir itself provided one of the highlights of the evening: while Lady J went off for a costume change, we were treated to a choral number which hypnotised and beguiled in equal measure.

Musically, Lady J veers between piano-led gospel which starts off with her alone and ends with the choir helping out - for example on her cover of the Rocky Horror Picture Show's I'm Going Home - or rip-roaring balls-out electro-pop. Singing a cover of Nine Inch Nails' Hurt in the latter style is a brave move. For those who consider Johnny Cash's version unbeatable, it may be worth coming to this show just to see how the song, Lady J's latest single, has been given a jump start.

Lady J will be at the Soho Theatre until August 21. More information and tickets here.

The London Show Choir (guest starring Lady J) will be appearing at the Gatehouse in Highgate on August 22. More information here.

Last Updated 12 August 2010