Bring on Episode Two!
By Bradley Storer
Lisa Nightingale returned with one final performance of her sell-out show, Ana-Lucia and the Baron: Episode One, previously seen at The Butterfly Club and brought back as part of the Butterfly @ Trades programme last night. Entering the stage to rapturous applause, Lisa began with an eerie Sondheim-style ode to her most treasured possessions: her precious diamonds (which Ana-Lucia repeatedly tells us she most certainly did not steal from the Baron!). From start to finish, the aptly-named Nightingale held the audience in the palm of her hand.
Playing the deliciously ditzy Frenchwoman Ana-Lucia, Nightingale is shamelessly entertaining in the best possible sense. Ana-Lucia is a saucy and cunning gold-digger in the mould of Lorelei Lee from Gentleman Prefer Blondes, a comparison highlighted by Ana-Lucia’s rendition of the classic ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ (here hilariously chained onto Travie McCoy’s ‘Billionaire). Her dubious French origin later provides the basis for a side-splitting Edith Piaf send-up which skewers every French stereotype imaginable. The enormously self-dramatizing heroine returns home while recovering from amnesia brought about by a mysterious accident – in hot pursuit is the dreaded Baron, who may or may not be her former lover. Ana-Lucia is aided during her moments of lapse by her partner-in-crime, Juan Pablo (pianist Trevor Jones) who chimes in at the appropriate moment to trigger flashbacks and lost memories.
Nightingale is a strong singer, her voice ably handling a range of songs from Cole Porter to Lady Gaga. Jones proves an appealing comic partner to her brassy but forgetful persona. Nightingale’s occasional memory lapses (not all of them scripted, I think) were quickly integrated into the comic exchanges between the two players, actually making complete sense in the context of the amnesiac character.
The real strength of the show was Ana-Lucia’s interactions with the audience, cast as the guests at Ana-Lucia’s ‘welcome home’ party. Nightingale engaged the audience in treasure hunts, party games and sing-alongs to great comic effect. She even managed to make a running gag of the continuous stream of late-comers entering the show, who were then forced to come to the front of the stage to receive party bags and hats. With such a strong command of her audience, it’s no wonder this show has sold out three previous seasons.
However, this strength also becomes a weakness at points – beginning with a series of giggle-inducing plot twists, the story meanders towards the middle of the show as the emphasis shifts to audience participation. In particular the inclusion of a Beyonce number, however funny and charmingly performed, seems unnecessary and slows down the action.
This quickly changes towards the finale of the show, ending on a climatic cliff-hanger which promises interesting revelations for Episode Two.
Ana-Lucia and the Baron (Episode One)
The New Ballroom, Trades Hall
Thur Sept 29, 7:30pm