Reviews

Just in case you need to see what others think of the group before committing your hard-earned to a ticket, here are some reviews. Click on the reviews to expand them, and they will magically reveal themselves to you by the wonders of technology!


Dillie Keane - reviewed by the New York Times


Written by STEPHEN HOLDEN
Published on Thursday, 23 June 2016
Performance reviewed: Hello, Dillie! at 59E59 Theaters, New York

“Regretting is only for fools.” That declaration by Dillie Keane, the very funny British singer, songwriter and comedian, on Wednesday typifies the hardheaded wisdom of a performer whose twinkling sense of merriment evokes a more down-to-earth descendant of Beatrice Lillie.

Ms. Keane belongs to the British cabaret trio Fascinating Aida, founded in 1983 but now on hiatus. Her one-woman show, “Hello, Dillie!,” is nearing the end of its run at the Off Broadway theater 59E59. Like Ms. Lillie, Ms. Keane can be very silly, but it is always with a purpose. Despite that twinkle, she could never be called fey. In her underlying toughness, she is closer to Elaine Stritch.

Accompanied on piano by Michael Roulston, Ms. Keane regaled the audience with personal stories and songs that didn’t stint on comedic self-deprecation while avoiding self-abasement. Ms. Keane writes literate story songs in a traditional musical-comedy style. Their wit and rhyming facility sometimes echo Cole Porter.

There are several layers to these songs, some written with the fellow group member Adele Anderson. Any tomfoolery is icing on the cake. Many address dating, love and aging in blunt, salty language. One of the most amusing, “This Ain’t the Hokey Cokey Anymore,” caricatures the physical challenges facing older people attempting athletic sex. “Go Back to Surabaya, Johnny” imagines a reunion of its brokenhearted narrator Lilian, from the Brecht-Weill musical “Happy End,” who kisses off the infamous cad of the song’s title.

A natural clown, Ms. Keane scrunches her face into cartoonish expressions, my favourite being a lethal smile while singing “Pam,” her takedown of a character who delights in seducing other women’s husbands. Most of the time, Ms. Keane maintained a common-sense tone of voice, but every now and then she roared.

A running sub-theme of the show is her experience with tarot card readers and mystics, whose advice she can’t resist seeking. After parodying their mannerisms and mumbo-jumbo, she told a story of a session with another seer whom she assumed to be a crank, but whose vision of her happily partnered romantic future proved uncannily accurate. Her touching song “Love Late” described a grown-up happy ending.

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Liza Pulman reviewed by West Briton


Written by Peter Harlow
Published on Monday, 25 April 2016
Performance reviewed: Liza Pulman: The Songs Of Hollywood, Hall For Cornwall

EVERYONE loves a bit of movie glamour and Saturday night at the Hall For Cornwall was the “reel” deal for film buffs.

But there was no acting, no cinematography, no special effects, no glorious technicolour. There was surround-sound in a way, though, as we were surrounded by the sound of the movies, surrounded by some magnificent music.

This show was a labour of love for singer and star Liza Pulman. Best-known as being one-third of cabaret comedy act Fascinating Aida, she is also an opera singer, actress and, as became clear on the night, a massive film fan.

Backed by Joseph Atkins and The Stardust Ensemble, she indulged her love of movie music with an evening of silver screen songs from titles as varied as Casablanca and Toy Story 2, from The Spy Who Loved Me to the much more obscure Love With The Proper Stranger.

And she nailed it every time.

When I saw Fascinating Aida at HFC last year I loved the show but part of me felt that comedy songs were a bit of a waste for someone as talented as Ms Pulman. It was lovely to see that large reservoir of vocal skill put to much more serious use on Saturday as she eased her way through a collection that ranged from the power of Evergreen to a funky Latin-style version of Moon River, from the gentleness of Smile Though Your Heart Is Breaking, all the way through to the folk-based rhythms of Shenandoah, which was my favourite song of the evening.

Others will have their own favourites and it would be hard to argue against any of them, such was the consistently high standard.

She was backed nicely throughout by pianist Joseph Atkins and an ensemble made of a drummer, double bass player, guitarist, trumpeter and what I am going to call a woodwind-ist, who played sax and other windy instruments.

They were excellent once they got going after a slightly flat start and the show, which is sparingly simple in its presentation, could benefit from a little more interaction between singer and band. Ms Pulman displayed several moments of that sharp Aida wit and more of that between her and the musicians would have allowed them to be more active participants rather than a slightly passive background.

But I may be quibbling a bit. It was a charming evening which the audience – which could have been bigger – lapped up with gentle delight.

It’s not a show that is going to reinvent the theatre or break any barriers but it was one that did what it did exceedingly well and was thoroughly enjoyable.

Under the old film classifications, I would have rated it X for Xcellent. Nowadays it would have to be PG, for Perfectly Grand.

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Dillie Keane, reviewed by the Times


Written by Clive Davis
Published on Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Performance reviewed: Oxford Playhouse

Where are the others? We are so used to seeing Dillie Keane as part of Fascinating Aida that it takes a while to get used to the idea of her doing a show alone. With Adele still recovering from cancer, this is how things will be for a little longer. (The other member of the trio, Liza Pulman, is also on the road with a new collection of Hollywood songs.)
Keane’s personality soon fills the auditorium. Rummaging through the unfailingly intelligent songs she has written with Anderson over the past three years decades, she is every bit as raunchy as before, but there is a little more vulnerability on display. At 63, she has reached that stage in life where she is entitled to tackle My Way. Don’t worry, she doesn’t: her material is much more interesting than that.
She can make light of her dating experiences, can threaten to punch “the other woman” (on the gloriously vicious Pam) and can twist your heart with a song about the sudden death of her best friend. Her voice, sometimes raucus, can surprise with gasps of tenderness. Michael Roulston provides the excellent accompaniment and the droll double-takes.
If the climatic anthem One More Campaign doesn’t quite take flight, the rest of the narrative is remarkably deft. Keane sees songwriting, in part, as a way of exploring the paths not taken. She has a mythical side, embarking on two monologues recalling encounters with psychics of wildly varying abilities. A superb mimic, Keane injects humour into both scenes, yet melancholy lurks underneath. As life lessons go, this one is hard to beat.

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Dillie Keane, reviewed by West End Frame


Written by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
Published on Sunday, 9 August 2015
Performance reviewed: Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 - Underbelly George Square, 9 August

Warm, charming and slightly crazy, I want Dillie Keane to be my best friend.

Fascinating Aïda were supposed to be playing the fringe this year, but sadly following Adèle Anderson’s cancer diagnosis their show was cancelled. Keane has stepped in and created a new solo show in which she premières some brand new numbers and performs some old favourites that she has co-written with Anderson.

Keane is not to be messed with - she knows her stuff and works the audience spectacularly. This superbly crafted show features an array of beautifully down to earth songs. Some may be touching and some may be humorous, but they all speak volumes. Keane growls her way through the comedic numbers, and sits at the piano
with a twinkle in her eye for some of the most poignant moments. There are songs about falling in love, falling out of love, coming face to face with an arch enemy and - my personal favourite - what it would be like to be a lesbian. Keane has no boundaries; she is unpredictable and naturally hysterical. I didn’t want the show to end!

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Dillie Keane, reviewed by The Scotsman


Written by Claire Smith
Published on Thursday, 20 August 2015
Performance reviewed: Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 - Underbelly George Square, 12 August

From the moment Dillie Keane wafts on to the stage you know you are in the presence of class.

Elegantly coiffed, superbly poised and resplendent in flowery evening pyjamas, she opens with a song which brilliantly subverts our expectations of how a middle- class lady of a certain age ought to behave.

Keane is a wonderful writer and performer of comic songs, with a voice that can range from delicate and sweet to raspy and vulgar.

Her range of facial expressions is also extraordinary – switching from innocent and perplexed to thunderous in a heartbeat, embracing but also sending up the full range of human emotion.

In her first solo show for years Keane has plundered her back catalogue to compile a sort of life story in song.
There are songs about falling in and out of love, about boredom, domesticity, infidelity and childlessness. Keane is alternatively seductive, fed up, furious and gloriously content.
It is just like life really. Except funnier.

The opening song is a new one, as is the chilling revenge number about a woman who helped herself to Dillie’s (former) husband.

It is a very emotional show – not just because of the choice of songs – but because the decision to come to Edinburgh alone was taken when Adele Anderson, Dillie’s songwriting partner from Fascinating Aida, had to pull out of the Fringe to undergo cancer treatment.

Adele is an invisible presence throughout the show – acknowledged for her creativity and friendship and remembered with love.

Although Keane plays the grand piano herself for a couple of numbers she mostly sings and performs with the help of accompanist, Dr Gulliver Ralston. Not only does he play, he even joins Dillie in a song about how much he wishes he were a lesbian. No-one looks more surprised than he does about this.

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The Upcoming


Written by Leo West
Published on Saturday, 3 January 2015
Performance reviewed: Charm Offensive, South Bank Centre, 2 Jan 2015

Fascinating Aïda the musical-comedy parlour act stars Dillie Keane, Adèle Anderson, and Liza Pulman. Their show Charm Offensive is enjoying an extended run ahead of a national tour that it undeniably deserves.

The show jumps right in without pulling any punches, and from start to finish barely lets up. It’s a left-wing oriented set. There are constant and brilliant moments of satire that force the audience to involve themselves in the causes. That’s not to say that there are no dumb-easy laughs (the famous and well-received song “Dogging” springs to mind), but the more you know about current affairs, the more of Charm Offensive you are likely to get.

The trio are excellent singers with impressive range. The musicianship was of a standard often not found in comic performances, which leaves no doubt as to why they have found themselves such a wide and loyal audience. When not performing a required pastiche (which are all very good in themselves), the composition is rich and romantic, an intriguing blend of Broadway and Eastern-European influences that is always engaging.

The performance is supported with thoughtful lighting design. The only trouble was the occasional confusion about where the illumination parody ended, and where the sincere mood lighting began. This brought forth some unfortunate laughs where none were looked for, but these were easily glossed over and forgotten about.

The lasting effect is that of an act by Victoria Wood, with much stronger language. There are moments of incredible emotion and feeling amid the glorious silliness, and a real veracity shines through from the comic songs about embracing their age, to the genuine tearjerkers about things they lost along the way— each lyric has real heart.

Full of unlikely rhymes, warmth and honesty, this night of musical comedy is extremely refreshing, and shows that you don’t have be singing about Mormons while you charmingly shock the public.

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Funny Women


Written by funnywomen.com
Published on Saturday, 3 January 2015
Performance reviewed: Charm Offensive, South Bank Centre, 2 Jan 2015

It’s fascinating how Fascinating Aida get away with their risqué material, but after thirty years in the business, we can excuse them. They wrote the rule book.

With a brief introduction by a posh, sarcastic male voice over who we assume to be the long suffering husband of one of these brilliant ladies, they enter the stage with gusto and let rip at the start of their UK tour, Charm Offensive.

Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson and Liza Pulman make up the titillating trio, reviving us with middle class songs that highlight everyday concerns. Most have topics that are relatable (Old Home and Cheap Flights), but others most would struggle to relate to, or at least claim they have little knowledge of (Dogging and Prisoner of Gender).

In their Bulgarian song cycles they vocally abuse Nigel Farrage, Tony Blair, Katie Price, Tim Burton. The comedy comes in waves in this brilliantly constructed show. Moments of absolute, side-splitting hilarity steps aside for touching tunes that pull on the heartstrings.

Throughout the show these clever women and their witty lyrics had the audience whooping with delight and a standing ovation was given to the bravery of the penultimate song called, Adele’s Story. Their perfect harmonies and rhythmic rhyming skills are beyond compare and finished of with vast vocal and clothing range.

Fascinating Aida are the three queens of musical comedy, bringing satire, harmony and mirth to the Royal Festival Hall. This spring they’ll be touring the UK and I thoroughly recommend you catch them while you can. This style of comedy won’t be around forever, but these ladies never go out of fashion.

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This Is Cabaret


Written by Franco Milazzo
Published on Saturday, 3 January 2015
Performance reviewed: Charm Offensive, South Bank Centre, 2 Jan 2015

Admitting he had no hard and fast definition of obscenity, in 1964 Justice Potter Stewart famously described it only by saying “I know it when I see it.” Over fifty years on, this wise though vague pronouncement would also apply when it comes to the unquantifiable appeal of Fascinating Aida and their latest show Charm Offensive.

Three decades long and three members wide, this group currently made up of Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson and Liza Pulman are little short of iconoclastic gems. Two of the cast are the pensionable side of sixty, their audience appear as they could all have voted for Kinnock and the venue is the temple to high culture that is the Southbank Centre, but Offensive is one of the most gloriously filthy shows around.

The songs themselves generally range from gleefully nihilistic odes to mortality (We’re Not Done Yet), tongue-firmly-in-cheek (the safe-sex themed ‘Allo, Bonjour Monsieur) to the frankly filthy fan favourite Dogging. The latter eschews much in the way of swearing but that doesn’t mean these ladies aren’t above some eff-ing and blinding when the occasion calls for it. Take for example their Christmas song which has more references to cunts than an East End traffic jam.

These girls also know how to move. Their days of swinging from chandeliers and somersaulting the light fantastic may be behind them but they’re not afraid to shake it like a Polaroid picture when circumstance demands. Satirical rap Down With The Kids sees Keane and co. hip-hopping like teenagers who have been on the Sunny D all day.
Lyrically, there can be no complaints. There is, of course, a tremendous back catalogue of wonderful songs but Fascinating Aida have never been about regurgitation when something contemporary provides inspiration. A key element of Charm Offensive’s appeal is down to its here-and-now feel, the sense that yesterday’s supper-wrappers were material for some of the show’s more pointed barbs in the form of occasional interludes loosely termed by Keane as Balkan folk songs. Like I’ve Got A Little List from The Mikado, these satirical shorts target the likes of Nigel Farage, HS2, the Royal Foetus and Bulgarian immigrants.

For every drop into the joyfully juvenile, there is an equally weighty moment in which kidding is set aside and a more serious tone descends. Old Home is a sombre reflection, full of evocations familiar to anyone who has moved from a long-inhabited house while Prisoner Of Gender explores Anderson’s transgender history. That the song avoids mawkishness or self-indulgence is to its credit as is the fact that this song was written at all. Anderson – and by extension Fascinating Aida – is a prime example of a performer who has escaped the labelling often associated with non-utterly-normal. In the same way that there is really no such thing as “gay marriage” but just plain old marriage between two people who love each other (or need an immigration visa), neither the performer nor her group should ever be characterised as anything other than one of the greatest musical comedy acts to grace the stage.

This we know, this we see: Fascinating Aida have taken another brave step with Charm Offensive that has paid off on all fronts. After thirty years on the stage, no-one would blame them for taking round-the-world Saga Cruises if only so they can sip gin and tonics and flick V-signs to assorted countries from the comfort of a recliner. Instead, they are storming around the country and enjoying yet another tour. Good for them.

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