Cabaret & variety review: Fascinating Aïda’s Adèle Anderson, Assembly George Square Studios

Adele Anderson. Picture: Steve Ullathorne
Adele Anderson. Picture: Steve Ullathorne
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Disappointment, depression and death aren’t your typical ingredients for an enjoyable hour’s entertainment, but then Adèle Anderson isn’t your typical performer.

Fascinating Aïda’s Adèle Anderson, Assembly George Square Studios (Venue 17) ****

As a longstanding member of Fascinating Aïda, she’s a past master of that group’s trademark combination of deft musicality, dry wit, relaxed conviviality and sometimes outré subject matter. All of those are present in this, Anderson’s first solo show in 27 years, with the lyrical content heavily skewed toward the maudlin. That, she tells us, is just her style, and it’s attested to by a chic, vampy look of black bob and diamante and a nifty balance of deadpan élan and endearing humour.

Despite the feelbad theme, it’s a funny, wide-ranging and dynamic show, covering a great deal of musical terrain with consistency and verve. In terms of the lighter side of gloom, the opening number – Ray Jessel’s parody That Old Kurt Weill Song – allows Anderson to give us her best drawling, droop-eyed ­Dietrich, while a Lieber and Stoller classic gets a cartoonishly creepy makeover.

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There’s also campy fun in the macabre Ricky Valance teen-tragedy ditty Tell Laura I Love Her, abetted by Dean Austin’s inventively melodramatic accompaniment. And when Anderson tells her she can keep a grudge for decades, we believe her.

Yet the show also gives sincere attention to the darker aspects of its theme, such as rejection, betrayal and loss, enabled by Anderson’s big, clear, resonant voice. The seldom-recalled ballad Remember My Forgotten Man yields real pathos, while Love For Sale takes on a powerfully weary, jaded yet tender timbre here. Rodgers and Hart’s It Never Entered My Mind offers a genuine sense of sad surprise and an unexpected fusion of Randy Newman and Daniel Cainer brings an eerily riveting charge to truly grim subject matter. It all makes for a fine balance of morbid fun and heartfelt expression.

• Until 26 August, 6:45pm