St. Michael’s Theatre New Ross served up a gem of a show with Songbirds featuring an excellent singer Ellen McElroy as she interpreted a range of singers and styles from the Golden Age of Swing Jazz and Blues. Kevin Hough provided a knowledgeable narration and it was a little sad to learn that most of those featured singers and traumatic childhoods and unhappy lives. A fine three piece of David Wray (keyboards) with drums and double bass, provided a delightful backing and Ellen McElroy opened with When You’re Smiling and the lyrical – They’re writing songs but not for me. It Don’t Mean A Thing was sassy and hard-edged and here was a vocalist to grab you by the bullion and shake out your shekels.

A Fine Romance opened into Billie Holiday’s In My Solitude and you could taste the yearning and smoky loneliness. Ella Fitzgerald was represented by A- Tisket, A-tasket, a modified children’s song, her first hit record and Lady Is A Tramp. McElroy caught the wide range of Sarah Vaughan – the Divine One – with My Funny Valentine and East Of The Sun. The Doris Day selection was a rare treat with It’s Magic, Ce Sera Sera, Perhaps and I Can Do Without You. A Piaf choice was average before the Judy garland songs closed the first section with brilliant renditions of Over The Rainbow and a stunning Almost Like Being In Love.

McElroy opened the second part with a blistering New York, New York mixed with Manhattan and a sultry Autumn In new York, and for a second I missed a brass section or a clarinet. The move into Aretha Franklin – Queen Of Soul – was Say A little Prayer and You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman. Peggy Lee was represented by Fever and My Baby Don’t Care. A Nina Simone slot slipped into a closing Liza Minnelli showcase of Cabaret and Sometimes and Kevin Hough unwisely joined McElroy for Something Stupid and I floated out onto the crisp night air on Everytime We Say Goodbye.

The venue was European Ballet on Sunday 27 April with The Sleeping Beauty. Early Booking is advisable at 051-421255.