My Queer Valentine

An understudy of a remote touring version of Miss Saigon, Ric Lau is taking an enormous gamble with debut one-man show in Edinburgh. He’s an unknown name waving a small rainbow flag against the torrent of white-noise that happens in August, trying to get a foothold in Europe at what is arguably the biggest arts trade show of them all. I wish him the best of luck.His show is a personal song cycle of tunes that have the common theme that they were all written by gay men. Now I often get the mickey taken out of me for the obscurity of some of the tunes on my iPod, but even I can only claim to have heard about 75% of the songs Lau has selected for his show. If you are one of those of a certain age and sensibility to remember the ‘Stages’ CD compilations from the mid 90s (only albums 1 & 2 of course, because as fans will know number 3 is best forgotten), then there are many parallels that can be drawn here. A soloist with a simple piano accompaniment, singing songs that may have started out for a female vocal but find new resonance in a male voice. That said, there’s a bit of a hiccup with the first song in the selection, which I assume is a late change as it wasn’t listed in the programme. The song, Making Love Alone was originally written for Broadway Diva, Bernadette Peters for a Saturday Night Live appearance in the US, and then made it onto her Live At Carnegie Hall album (and subsequently removed from later pressings, presumably when the ‘shirts’ realised it was about masturbation). It’s a very funny song, but here the lyrics are wrong for a man (“It’s the kind of love, that fits hand in glove”).The next selection, ‘The Boy From Fire Island’ is based on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s 1960’s classic ‘The Girl From Ipanema’. Well, if Sondheim can parody it with ‘The Boy From…’ in ‘The Mad Show’, then why not Ric Lau? This is immediately followed by a more contemporary number, Rufus Wainwright’s The Art Teacher – replacing the ‘girl’ with ‘boy’, etc so you know this is a gay love song.The next song is one of couple Lau has plundered from ‘The Gay 90s Musical’ called ‘He’s Lookin’ At Me’. Set in a communal shower, it’s the story of a straight guy who thinks he’s the object of another man’s attention only to be disappointed when he realises the other guy isn’t looking at him anymore. Lau then switches gear from the campness to sing ‘The Guy In The Starched White Shirt’ from the off-Broadway show ‘Songs From An Unmade Bed’. This is possibly the first time we get a true taste of Lau’s voice – and, to be honest, it’s a welcome break from what was fast becoming a Saturday night at the Vauxhall Tavern. Cole Porter follows this with ‘It’s Alright With Me’ and then a beautiful version of ‘Quiet Love’, which Lau signs as he sings. Poetry in motion.With Lau’s next offering, he introduced me to a song I hadn’t heard before – but one I am surely going to seek out. ‘Yard Sale’ by Tom Andersen was inspired, apparently by the yard sales common in San Francisco, but with a theme running through the lyrics that talks of clinging onto memories during the devastation of the community through the AIDS epidemic. It’s a deeply moving piece that Lau really captures well.It’s back to The Gay 90s Musical songbook for the next tune, ‘And the Ship Sails On’, which is the story of a couple of seagulls on Noah’s Arc that no-one happens to spot are both female, and go on to set up the only Lesbian colony of gulls off California. Erm, yes. This wasn’t the highlight of the show, but Lau quickly recovered with a version of one of my favourite songs from one of my favourite musicals, ‘Dear Dad’ from ‘Fairy Tales’ – a wonderful letter from son to father in which the writer comes out and introduces his dying lover. Lau closes the show with that classic, ‘I Am What I Am’ and a reprise of ‘My Funny Valentine’. It’s a very pleasant way to spend an hour, but I can’t help thinking that there are better song choices from some of the shows he’s already aware of – such as ‘A Hummingbird’ from ‘Fairy Tales’ or ‘John and Fred’ from ‘The Gay 90s’. Lau’s is much better at the pure simple male vocal than the slightly hammy comic numbers, so I’d have preferred more of those and leave the comedy to the drag circuit. But that said, I have to say I rather enjoyed it.

Reviews by Pete Shaw

Good Grief

★★★★
The Phoenix Arts Club Facebook Live Page

Live From The Phoenix Flat

★★★★★
Crescent - The Vaults

Over My Dad's Body

★★★★
Greenwich Theatre

Sleeping Beauty

★★★★★
Christmas in Leicester Square

La Clique

★★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

The Blurb

Fire Island, army shower stall and lesbian seagulls on Noah's Ark? 'One-man tour de force' (Australian). Rick Lau takes you on a roller-coaster cabaret journey to find his rainbow utopia. Queers/non-queers all welcome. www.ricklau.com

Most Popular See More

Be More Chill

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Come From Away

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Anything Goes

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Wonderment Magic & Illusion

From £15.00

More Info

Find Tickets