ACTRESS and singer Camilla Beeput is a talented individual.
Known by many for her role as nightclub singer Gloria Dee in TV detective series Grantchester, and starring in a number of West End musicals (Daddy Cool and West Side Story), she has now branched out into writing.
Her latest project is a show based around the life of Lena Horne, one of the most significant black figures in 20th century American entertainment. A woman who managed to battle against a relentless tide of racism to crack Hollywood, only then to be shunned for her political activism. Only in later life, with her one woman-show on Broadway – Lena Horne: The Lady And Her Music – did she get the accolades that her music and talent richly deserved.
Beeput is quite magnificent as Horne, recalling through word and song her musical journey – from the Cotton Club in New York in the early 1930s, the Café Society (the City’s first racially integrated nightclub) through to Hollywood (Cabin In The Sky) and eventual success on Broadway.
Despite the racism and the type-casting, it was a journey rich with adventure – marriages made and broken, affairs galore and experiences aplenty. Friendships with the likes of Ava Gardner, Cab Calloway and Billy Strayhorn; meetings with Billie Holliday; affairs with boxer Joe Louis (amongst others); and an overwhelming admiration for civil rights activist Martin Luther King. In the end a life well lived.
Beeput tells the story engagingly, backed by superb musical direction from Alex Webb on piano. More than able support is given by Miles Danso on double bass, Cheryl Alleyne on drums, Sue Richardson (superb) on trumpet and Erica Charles on saxophone, clarinet and flute.
Amongst the narrative are some beautiful Horne songs, including From This Moment On, Stormy Weather, Something To Live For and Yesterday When I Was Young.
It is a show that is expertly delivered, slick and entrancing. Maybe a bit more from Horne’s vast songbook would not have not gone amiss, given Beeput’s delightful and powerful voice.
She now hopes to take the show to New York provided she can raise the necessary funds.