Review: Cabaret at Scarfes Bar (Rosewood London)

As the long, lazy summer days turn into dark, drizzly nights, Rosewood London invites you to spend an evening in the warm amber glow of Scarfes Bar and indulge in top drawer food, drink, and entertainment from some of London’s finest cabaret stars.

You enter what could be the grand library of a sleepy country manor to the sound of sprightly, stylish swing, courtesy of musical trio Tom Carradine, Jonathan Kitching and Tom Mansi. Before long you have a glass of sparkling champagne in your hand and the winning smile of celebrated sleight of hand magician Laura London before you, who performs impossibly slick and utterly baffling card tricks at your table. In the centre, Dusty Limits tweaks his crisp black jacket and surveys the room as Lili La Scala sashays past with plush feather fan in hand. If there are nerves about this new run of shows they are too professional to show it; everything feels relaxed and familiar as they mingle with the patrons at the bar.

A hush descends as burlesque big-hitter Vicky Butterfly begins the evening’s entertainment: a Klimt painting come to life in an opulent shower of gold with glossy copper curls, dancing across the floor like a breath of shimmering air. Later she returns to perform her ‘Swan Bride’ piece, wafting her slender, feathered arms and allowing us to admire her swaying hips and exquisitely small waist. As a cascade of red petals tumble out of her bra, she performs a swift, agile and mesmerising fan dance with a divine pair of long, curled feather fans, bathed in an ethereal moonlight and commanding total stillness. A true sorceress at the height of her potency.

Scarfes Bar at Rosewood London.  (Review: Cabaret at Scarfes Bar - 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)
Scarfes Bar at Rosewood London. (Review: Cabaret at Scarfes Bar – 21st Century Burlesque Magazine)

This is predominantly an evening of song, and Dusty Limits and Lili La Scala hold the show together as an amusing, unhappily married showbiz husband and wife at the head of an eccentric family of aristocratic relatives. Dusty opens with an original number which vividly describes these unseen characters, and while some of the lyrics are slightly lost as the speed picks up, it’s an engaging start which sets the scene.

Lili follows him, regal and coquettish, with a beguiling rendition of On My Lips Every Kiss is Like Wine from Giuditta which bounces off the walls with chandelier-trembling top notes. Throughout the evening she also takes on Sous le ciel de Paris, the suitably nostalgic I’ll Be Seeing You, and Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen which seems to stretch her at first but builds to a fantastic roar which threatens to blow the windows out.

Dusty Limits, Sammy Dinneen, Laura London, Vicky Butterfly and Valerie Murzak in Cabaret at Scarfes Bar, Rosewood London.
Dusty Limits, Sammy Dinneen, Laura London, Vicky Butterfly and Valerie Murzak in Cabaret at Scarfes Bar, Rosewood London.

Dusty returns frequently, applying his rich, dynamic voice to wistful, well chosen Noel Coward classics Mad About the Boy and If Love Were All, and proving delightfully swift-footed and debonair as he sings us home with Let’s Face the Music and Dance. There are a couple of contemporary choices which don’t seem quite as in keeping with our surroundings, namely Amanda Palmer’s Coin-Operated Boy, and recent Lorde anthem Royals performed as a duet with Lili. The quality of their delivery rarely dips, but these choices feel like a departure from the mood and era of the evening overall.

Two of the musical performances are enhanced by the first rate circus skills of heart-stealing hand-balancer Sammy Dinneen and the fluid and flexible contortionist Valerie Murzak, both making a memorable and impressive contribution.

A night of cabaret at Scarfes Bar is more of an experience than a simple show. Throughout the evening you are waited on by charming, courteous and attentive staff who tempt you with a gorgeous array of sophisticated savoury snacks and devastatingly delicious desserts, washed down with seemingly endless champagne. You feel thoroughly cherished and taken care of by the time they wave you off into the night. It is clear that the experience can vary somewhat depending on where you are sat. If you don’t bag a central seat you may feel distracted by the comings and goings and distance from the action. That said, our cabaret hosts were clearly aware of the layout and made a good effort to circulate and involve everyone in the entertainment, whether standing towards the entrance, sat at the bar, or quaffing bubbly in the corner.

Running fortnightly until Christmas, I thoroughly recommend an evening in this stunning venue with equally enchanting, top quality cabaret. Cheers!

Cabaret at Scarfes Bar reviewed by Holli-Mae Johnson.

Further performances of Cabaret at Scarfes Bar are scheduled for November 2nd, November 16th, November 30th and December 14th 2014. Book Tickets here.



Holli-Mae Johnson
Holli-Mae Johnson

Burlesque Hall of Fame / Miss Exotic World Judge, 2011 Holli-Mae Johnson is the founder and editor of 21st Century Burlesque Magazine, a pioneering publication created nine years ago to unite, document and celebrate the global burlesque community. Holli is actively involved in the burlesque community on a day to day basis and is privately consulted by performers and producers at every level for promotion, critique, recommendations and encouragement. As a documenter and critic, she has seen countless burlesque and variety performances from across the world and provides an intimate perspective and insight into the lives and careers of burlesque’s greatest pioneers, performers and personalities.

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