Luck be a Lady
White Bear Theatre
Reviewed – 30th June 2021
“Burrows’ strength is her voice in this show, and it’s a pleasure to listen”
Beth Burrows’ Luck Be A Lady is her second solo show—a follow up to Sirens of the Silver Screen which looked at the lives of Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. Luck Be A Lady takes the same formula to put Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra under the spotlight—and it’s not a flattering picture. Actor, singer and writer Burrows takes a decidedly feminist approach in her critique of these male idols of the silver screen. Luck Be A Lady provides a setting for the stories, and the songs and dances à la Astaire, Kelly and Sinatra (with a dressmaker’s mannequin for an assist). But in Burrows’ version, it’s the women in these men’s lives that both made them and gave them their big breaks. Burrows does perform some of the women in her narrative, such as Ava Gardner (Sinatra’s second wife—and an epic union between the two that did not end well.) But it’s the men who are the main focus of Luck Be A Lady. From the mothers who raised them, to the sisters and partners who were initially the bigger stars (and harder workers), to the young and inexperienced women that had to put up with them both on and off the stage, it’s a pretty stark portrayal of all three men—and undoubtedly closer to the truth than the Hollywood publicity machines would have their adoring fans believe.
The biggest weakness of Luck Be A Lady is the script. It’s part anecdote, part documentary, and part a recreation of Astaire’s, Kelly’s and Sinatra’s performances. Burrows treats us to film clips projected onto a screen when she isn’t performing herself. But this is problematic for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it reminds the audience that Astaire, Kelly and Sinatra were stars for a reason (putting aside, for a moment, the creepy behaviour behind the scenes). Secondly, the clips draw attention to the fact that we are watching a solo show, and not a Broadway musical.
Burrows’ strength is her voice in this show, and it’s a pleasure to listen to her versions of well known favorites such as Top Hat, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, Singin’ In The Rain and, of course, Luck Be A Lady. Burrows moves with confidence across the tiny stage at the White Bear Theatre although the space has its fair share of challenges for a dancer. (The mannequin doesn’t so much assist Burrows as remind one of Donald O’Connor’s brilliant demonstration of how it can be done in Singin’ In The Rain). Social distancing (still with us) also gets in the way of building a good connection with the audience. But Burrows is well supported with Guilia Scrimieri’s elegant costumes and Sam Owen’s lighting. Musical Director Ashley Harvey (on keyboards) and Doug Grannell on bass were pleasant on the ears, and had an easy rapport on stage with Burrows that was good to see. Kudos to director Mark Giesser for managing to find room for the musicians on stage.
Luck Be A Lady is an intimate show, and it works best when Burrows is treating us to her particular brand of singing and dancing (and charm) in the equally intimate setting at the White Bear Theatre.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Yev Kazannik
Luck be a Lady
White Bear Theatre until 3rd July
Reviews this year by Dominica: