Lorna Dallas
Jermyn St Theatre, SW1

The late Benny Green was renowned for his knowledge of that enduring oxymoron, the obscure popular song. Lorna Dallas is fast establishing herself as another authority. When she last came to this venue the American soprano shone new light on the partnership of Ivor Novello and Jerome Kern. She demonstrates even more ingenuity and industriousness in her seasonal celebration Spring Collection. John Dankworth's nimble setting of an e.e. cummings poem, Viva Sweet Love, is just one of the lesser-known pieces that form a counterpoint to the familiar sentiments of You Must Believe in Spring.

Dallas is certainly a true believer. Although her voice can be overpowering in a room as intimate as this, few performers handle a ballad with quite as much purity and sensitivity. Nevertheless, and evening built around a single theme - with no interval, by the way - involves a certain amount of risk. In the Novello-Kern tribute Dallas and her director Barry Kleinbort wove the songs into a rich biographical narrative (this time around she has some adroit things to say about Novello's portrayal in Gosford Park)

Her springtime reflections do not flow quite as smoothly. It could just be that spring and all that buds-in-bloom business is rather one-note affair, perhaps we wouldn't listen to Vivaldi quite so much if he had written about only one season instead of four. The problem might also be that some of the material does not really come up to scratch. I have to admit I greeted the whimsy of Novello and Wodehouse's Nuts in May with a fixed grin. Spring is a New Beginning (from The Yearling) was one of a number of pieces that filled the quota but lacked that certain something.

A few cuts and stronger links (why not add some poetry?) would make all the difference. Dallas promises to shuffle the songs as the residency proceeds.

As it stands, there are still glorious moments to savour. Younger Than Springtime is cloaked in a darkly ruminative arrangement by the pianist and musical director Christopher Denny. Dallas is vulnerable and conversational on Fran Landesman's Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. And after a paean to all things Gallic on April in Paris she catches us with a playful snowball on April in Fairbanks, which may as well be the only song ever written about the joys of the Alaskan climate. Benny Green would have been impressed.

Clive Davis

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