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The civilising art of cabaret has come to brighten the dark Sunday afternoons of north London once again in the enterprising Cabaret in the House season at Highgate's Waterlow Park. In a long, narrow room, atmospherically hung with Persian carpets, and with just a piano for company, an impressive array of singers are showcasing their art and craft adorned by neither lighting enhancement nor sound amplification.
While most of the artists featured are variously well known from their work in the West End, a couple are completely new to us. In her London debut the lovely Courtenay Day brings an effortless ease to a gentle hour of cabaret, drawn mostly from the Great American Songbook - Arlen and Berlin, Mercer and Sondheim - in which she illuminates not just the material but also the entire room.
Accompanied by the sensitive Christopher Marlowe, who created many arrangements for the late, great Nancy LaMott, there are times when Day brings LaMott to mind - not least when she tackles one of LaMott's own signature songs, We Can Be Kind.
But Day, with her light, lilting voice, also offers some delightful discoveries of her own. These include a song from a long- forgotten 1946 Arthur Schwartz/ Ira Gershwin musical Park Avenue which offers a tongue twisting list of why it is best to avoid being a woman. She reveals its intricate, agile comedy with tremendous effervescence. Ditto a medley of every song that Berlin wrote for Astaire and Rogers for the movies, which Day - who has another career as a ballet teacher - makes dance with just her voice.