PianoDivalicious!

Amy Abler’s hour long one woman piano cabaret bonanza is difficult to evaluate because, despite all its apparent flaws, it still seems to endear itself to its tiny audiences. The audience is introduced to a sequined Abler, a self-attested recovering classical pianist. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen!’ she shouts over-loudly to the assembly of ten, ‘the question of the afternoon! Can a classical musician really play rock and roll?!’ With this she rounds on her poor piano and so begins a savage but enthusiastic hour of Abba covers and jazzed up Mozart.

Her music is without exception fast and loud. Her technique seems flawed for a classically trained pianist (there are few embellishments, no dynamics, and most subtleties are sacrificed for the sake of speed). Still, she manages to play the pieces so damn quickly that one feels sure she could have – would have – played them better if she had wanted to.

She does not, however, seem to want to. The story she tells, interpolated with the piano’s belching, is about her emancipation from the shackles of classical servitude. Discarding a rockstar boyfriend who did not believe in her cool, Abler now travels across the world, asserting her cool to whoever will listen. She does not want to be a musician, she wants to be a diva – and that requires a sass that cannot make concessions for the whimsical desires of an audience member there to hear good piano.

And this is, eventually, the contradiction that her show boils down to. She does not give us Pachelbel’s Canon, but Pachelbel’s Canon Plus, complete with sequences where she plays the piano with different parts of her body. Call it sagacity, call it foolishness, but Amy Abler does not (apart from initial signs of nervousness) seem to care much for her audience’s expectations. She sings her heart out in an entirely unmelodious voice that nevertheless is hoarse in a way that suggests earnestness and commitment. These qualities are consistent with her stories – there is no question of them not being true even though some of them are of questionable interest. It is in her lack of perfection, in her misguided inattention to critical recipients, that she wins her audience. They leave thrilled to have been allowed into the world of such a woman.

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 £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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The Blurb

The PianoDiva is back! Enjoying worldwide sell-out seasons, Amy Abler returns with her signature Beethoven burlesque. With new music, more feathers, and the fastest fingers of the Fringe, she’ll tickle your fancy with saucy tales and astonishing virtuosity. **** (BroadwayBaby.com).

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