Songs to Make You Smile [FringeTIX]
Lili La Scala @ The Spiegeltent
5:00pm, Fri 11 Feb 2011
So it’s the first show of the year, and Lili La Scala has always always been very friendly to me; and, with Songs to Make You Smile being the earliest gig offered by The Garden for the evening, I figured there would be no better way to start my Fringe. And Lili purposefully – but with a refined elegance – takes to the stage, with bright coppery hair and in a cheery pink dress with white hearts… she’s cute as a button. She’s joined by local pianist Daniel Brunner, who tinkles the ivories admirably throughout.
As with last year’s War Notes, I have to admit that this isn’t really my type of music – and yet nearly every song was recognisable. Makin’ Whoopee makes an early appearance, Lili gets over-excited when she tackles the Gracie Fields segment of her set, and Cole Porter also gets a sizeable look-in, with It’s De-Lovely and The Physician getting some great renditions (the latter being related to Lili’s sexy orthodontist story, as she flashes her perfect teeth). But there’s a few songs that were completely new to me: Second Hand and (Lili’s Dad’s favourite) The Lonely Oyster were cheeky little numbers that couldn’t fail to make you laugh.
Throughout, Lili’s pure, operatic singing is wonderful – she soars and roams her range with ease – and her little theatrical flourishes during Flanders & Swann‘s The Warthog were an absolute delight. And, aside from a short sojourn into the moodier (but still wonderfully performed) Dark Music, pretty much every song was indeed a smile-maker. But the real joy from the performance was watching Lili and Daniel at work… even though it was their first performance of this show together, and they looked a touch wooden onstage, they were both clearly enjoying themselves. Sure, there appeared to be a few tempo tweaks during some songs, with subtle little taps on the piano their only overt communication. And Lili did drop a few lines in one of her favourite George Formby songs – but it’s hard to find fault when her self-admonishment is a ridiculously cute tight-fisted exclamation of “oh… balls“… and the crowd gave her a rapturous applause at the end of the song.
Lili was clearly less-than-chuffed with her own performance, apologising profusely towards the end of the performance; indeed, as she thanked people at the door as we left the Spiegeltent, she approached me with mock anger: “you had to come to the first show!” she quietly fumed. But that, too, was yet another moment worthy of a broad grin; because I had a great time at this show, and Lili’s passion for perfection was just the icing on the cake.