Michael Roulston and Dillie Keane. Photo by Carol Rosegg
By Eugene Paul
queen Dillie Keane has been knocking them dead for 34 years in Britain and
elsewhere ever since she invented her hit cabaret act, “Fascinating Aida”, the
smash hit all girl group built around her ribald songs, words and music, based
on the devilishly simple proposition that hearing these outrageousnesses
tunefully delivered out of the mouths of svelte babes would be such shocking
fun that only more would be better. She was right. Awards, albums, TV, movies,
the internet, cabarets, cabarets, cabarets.
long proven right, older and no wiser, having outlasted her fellow cabaret
players, Dillie has returned to New York as a single act, knowingly directed by
Simon Green, backed by enthusiastically good Michael Roulston at the piano
allowing Dillie to perform triple duty and it’s three times the fun. Out of
the myriad songs she’s written and performed over the years about the myriad
vagaries of what constitutes her take on life, she’s winnowed an hour and a
half of observations about love, some sage, some howlers, and she lets us have
it right in the kisser, each song its own richly comic drama, couth, uncouth,
clever, heartfelt, heartless. What a dame.
once knew a dame who was the best company in the world with the bluest mouth in
the British Isles. Lady Jane. A good deal of her charm was the delivery of her
ripping utterances in a totally U accent, so upper class you hardly ever hear
it any more. It’s a nostalgic delight to bathe in Dillie’s impeccable
syllables in that selfsame assured arrogance, edged with a wicked, good
natured self mockery. So that when she acts out her “My Usual Morning”—who IS
that in my bed?—with a jaded gusto any music hall top of the bill comic would
give an eyetooth to master and it all comes out so plummy, it’s a rollabout
delight. “Morning” is one of the numbers she’s written with her partner Adele
Anderson who lends a kind of rough rudeness to the lyrics Dillie delights in
performing. Dillie’s own music and lyrics songs – there are five out of the
sixteen in her U.S. program -- are a teeny bit nicer. But not much. I take
that back. Lord knows, her closing number, “One More Campaign” could be
performed by any battle scarred, Kiplingesque commanding general. With no less
Dillie? Dillie is an actress, a superb actress. Occasionally, she’ll be carried
away with an anecdote acting out all the parts, especially the outlandish
psychics, and you are laughingly rapt. And when she conjures up one of the
swains and rakes from her black and blue life in her black and blue love songs,
you are compelled to follow her gaze at the invisible culprit she’s drilling
with her concentrated tongue lashings to see who else has been benefiting from
her bashing. Even more, when some tender reverie softens her defenses and down
they come, you find yourself gulping, which is properly comedic and lovely at
the same time and who can beat moments like that. It’s her gift in wonder and
indomitableness that’s so damned alluring. She’s a peach, Okay, a ripe peach,
but those are the best kind.
what an incredible New York bargain. Yes, you can get yourself a ticket any
old time for Hamilton for $1249. In the balcony. And here is Dillie,
every bit as enjoyable for $25! In the front row! Ten blocks away! Now I ask
you: is that a bargain or is that a bargain. You cannot tell me that Hamilton
is fifty times better entertainment. And in the balcony, yet? Not if you’re a
New Yorker. And nobody, but nobody in New York speaks better English in any
show than she does even in her most raucous numbers and when was the last time
you heard that, pray tell? It’s not just the words, and the delivery, either.
She gets to you. She understands. She could be a friend.
59E59 Theaters. 59 East 59th Street near Park Avenue. Tickets: $25.
212-279-4200. 95 Min. Thru July 3.