With her new “Written iin Britain” show unveiled at don’t tell mama, Barbara Lowin charmed with an elegant mix of songs from across the pond that enabled her to revel in humor ranging from sophisticated to broad, yet also be moving with serious songs of love and commemoration. She was especially engaging with a sense of fun in this show, which also gave a chance for her long-time artistic director and superb pianist, Paul Greenwood, to amusingly add his excellent voice to some of the numbers.
Lowin began by looking down on the demeaned British policy decision with a name that she would not stoop to say, and decided that Britain could use a friendly pat on the back—hence this musical adventure. A smart intro. Later, she had a great time waving a British flag that she had acquired for the occasion.
At one point Lowin recalled having been a child radio star while growing up in Toronto until she was too to continue--background applicable to her two fairy numbers, one “There Are Fairies at the Bottom of Our Garden” by Liza Lehmann and Rose Fylemann, and the other more pertinent and hilarious “Nobody Loves a Fairy When She’s Forty” by Arthur Le Clerq. To amusingly get into the spirit of the aging lament, she donned what passed for fairy wings.
Lowin quickly contrasted the foregoing with the melancholy World War I poem “In Flanders Fields” by Lt. Col. John McCrae and the World War I romantic favorite “The Roses of Picardy” by Frederic Weatherly and Haydn Wood.”
Lowin opened her far-ranging program, directed by Scott Barnes, with “Big Best Shoes” by Sandy Wilson from “Valmouth,” followed by “Who Will Buy?” by Anthony Newly and Leslie Bricusse from “The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd,” and then “Feelin’ Good” by Lionel Bart from “Oliver.”
Lowin excelled with vocal and lyric interpretation in performing “If Music Be the Food of Love” by Henry Purcell, “We Gather Lilacs in the Spring Again” by Ivor Novello, “The Very Thought of You” by Ray Noble and “Every Breath You Take” by Sting. There was, of course, the British 1960s era, which Lowin referenced especially with “And I Love Him” and “Something” by Paul McCartney and George Harrison, plus a 1960s medley.
One of the funniest numbers in the Monty Python “Spamalot” is “The Song That Goes Like This,” and Lowin and Greenwood raised hell with that one. Earlier there was fun with the John W. Bratton-Jimmy Kennedy “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.”
But Lowin brought a lovely conclusion to the pre-encore program with a reminder of the emotional songs that Charlie Chaplin composed, an accomplishment often forgotten in the light of his comic acting and filmic genius. His best known is “Smile,” which Lowin sang exquisitely. She also infused sensitivity into Chaplin’s “This is My Song,” and “I’ll Be Loving You, Eternally.”
Have you noticed anything missing? What would a show about British songs be without Noël Coward? The gap was filled uproariously with Lowin’s encore number “Countess Mizzi” from Coward’s “Operette,” with extra amusement also provided by Lowin’s introduction to the piece.
Lowin performs her show again on Wednesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. At don’t tell mama, 343 West 46th Street, Phone: 212-757-0788. Reviewed March 12, 2018.