Producers Neil Eckersley and Paul Spicer are making a habit of staging chat-and-tune evenings at the Vaudeville. Following Alan Cumming’s one-man show last year, it is the turn of American actress Megan Mullally to showcase her talents in a week-long residency.
Mullally is better known as Karen from US sitcom Will & Grace. Though Karen fans will no doubt be eager to see their heroine in the flesh, the chic Mullally, understated in jeans, a striped top and blazer, bears scant resemblance to the overblown, shrill millionairess she plays. However there is just enough in Mullally’s knowing humour and tone of voice to satisfy fans.
With her band Supreme Music Program Mullally performs an eclectic line-up of songs, from country and western and rockabilly through Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry, to traditional folk tunes and blues, with a dash of Sondheim and Kermit the frog thrown in. Mullally jokes that she errs on the grim side when choosing tunes, though tales of murder and prostitution have a feisty, rather than maudlin, edge in her hands.
Proving her capabilities as an actress – she has performed on Broadway several times including the recent production of Young Frankenstein – Mullally tells the story of every song, and displays a versatility in embracing the varied nature of the material, her voice segueing easily between styles.
Though she appeared nervous to begin with last night, Mullally created an easy banter with the audience, putting herself and us at ease as she chastised herself for stumbling over her words and advising everyone, with a Karen-esque cackle, to “get wasted” during the interval. The casual, intimate atmosphere she creates conjures a low-key bar rather than a West End theatre.
As she encores with a gentle rendition of Ave Maria and Rodgers and Hart’s You Took Advantage Of Me, which she sang in the recent remake of Fame, Mullally proves that, unlike Karen, she can do subtle as well as sassy.