Lynn Ruth Miller

View from across the Pond

Orinda’s Own Holly Penfield Mesmerizes the London Cabaret Scene

Holly Penfield: The Rhythm of Life at the Vauxhall Theatre, November 2, 2016 @ 8pm

On Wednesday night November 2, Holly Penfield walked through the audience, pheasant feathers in her hat, in a skirt made of her deceased father’s neckties and blessed us all with a magnificent evening of song, dance and down-to-earth philosophy. Her show, The Rhythm of Life, was a collection of her favorite jazz, cabaret and torch songs.

Penfield has been an integral part of the London Jazz and Cabaret scene for over fifteen years with five albums of her own songs under her belt not to mention the new CD, “Holly Penfield Sings Judy Garland” that she launched that night at the Vauxhall. When Penfield takes the stage, she doesn’t just sing lyrics, she lives and breathes the music she gives us, amply supported by the gifted Alex Hutton on piano, Sophie Alloway on drums and Nick Kaçal on bass.

She opened the show with “Some Like it Hot” and followed with “A Lotta Loving” before she introduced herself and the theme of the evening. She dedicated this performance to her wonderful father Raymond Cassonova Penfield, the man who encouraged her to continue on her chosen path and was so often there in the audience to cheer her on. The audience drank a toast to her father as she sang “Here’s to Life.”

Raymond Penfield lived to be 98.5 years old and Holly told us his secret for a long life was two of everything: vodka, wine and girlfriends. Then she sang “I Wanna Be Evil”, a composition that never fails to mesmerize her audience as she tells them she wants to make young boys cry; she wants to have sex in a swimming pool…and, after all, who doesn’t?

The songs she gave us were old favorites like ”Lets Face the Music” and “Desperado, but the highlight was when she sang The Minute Waltz in more than a minute and ended the act with the song reminiscent of her father: ”I’m a Bitch”. An enchanted audience sang along with this marvel of a woman so animated and in love with the songs she offers to us all.

After the break, Holly Penfield appeared in black with a necklace of skulls and two hands coming out of her hat to sing “You Made Me Love You.” And she certainly did. Everyone at the Vauxhall that night was in the palm of her hand. She moved on to “Zing went the Strings of my Heart”, Judy Garland’s memorable hit and continued with another Garland favorite, “The Man That Got Away.”

Halloween had happened two days before this show, but Penfield gave it its due for the last half of the second act with “Spooky” and her original “Shake your Skeleton.” She followed up with another of her own compositions, “Confessions” and then she said, “We don’t know what is going to happen next…..but no matter what happens, this is your chance to dance.” And that is what she did. She danced through the audience, on the stage and locked herself into everyone’s heart.

Her finale was the theme of the evening: “Rhythm of Life “. Her voice soared to the skies; her energy erupted in more dancing, creating a number that was as visual as it was aural. We did get an encore: “I Could Go On Singin’ ‘til the Cows Come Home.” And the truth is that Holly Penfield would go on singing forever, if she could. She is part and parcel of every word she utters, every note she sings. Her shows are a happening; every moment with her glimmers and sparkles with energy and love. Holly Penfield will be back singing for us throughout London because she simply cannot stop. Watch for her. Go see her. Holly Penfield: an experience you will never forget.