Miss Hope Springs sashays over to us in ruby red sequins as I arrive in her dressing room, complete with Steinway piano, at the Wigmore Hall. She’s composed and gracious, ready for her premiere on a stage which is world-revered for its classical music repertoire. But today, the Wigmore goes cabaret, more Las Vegas than van Beethoven. There’s a chanteuse and a raconteuse in town. Her eyes are lashed, her tresses are back-coiffed, and she’s about to rock the house.
Viva las Vegas
I’m not a Hope Springs novice. She’s a regular at Brasserie Zédel, and I’ve been a fan for some years. I took my daughters and my 70-year-old aunt to one of her shows, and they thought she was darling. What’s not to love? She’s fun, she’s sassy, she’s smart, and she can write a damn good lyric.
It’s such a shame she ain’t real. Miss Hope is the alter ego of songwriter and classically-trained pianist Ty Jeffries, son of actor and film director Lionel Jeffries. Aged seven and living in Los Angeles, Ty was tapping down Sunset Boulevard with Fred Astaire and hanging out with Bette Davis, Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine.
In 2010, Ty created Hope, a sequinned, blonde bombshell who started her career performing in the Pink Pelican Casino in Las Vegas. Her showgirl days came to an end when she was fired (“I was too womanly for the skimpy costumes”). It wasn’t long before she bumped into Ray Charles who got her a gig at the Starlight Lounge and who advised her to make the most of her assets. She dated Burt Bacharach, and she tells us Barry Manilow was head over heels in love with her. Noel Coward penned a tune which Miss Hope croons to the Wigmore Hall audience: Please don’t Desert us at Dessert. Coward had “beautiful, understated masculine energy,” purrs Hope, and “the same goes for Liberace.”
The Devil is in the detail
Ty Jeffries spends two hours morphing into his “halter” ego, Hope Springs. When Hope steps out, she chats to the audience, we hear her Vegas to Paris to London stories, and it doesn’t take long to fall in love. She tickles the ivories and sings self-penned favourites such as A Seedy Little Nightclub in Pigalle and The Devil made me do it, also title of her new album. In-between the comedy, there’s also sadness and beauty in an ode to songwriter, Michel Legrand, which brings a tear to our eyes.
She dazzled. She made us cry and giggle in the space of a short hour. And behind all the glitter and the silliness, there’s some serious retro-glamour talent. Now if only we could get her to duet with Barbra, Burt, Bette or Bassey.
Miss Hope Springs is on tour, heading to Bath and Deal before returning to London for a two-hour show at Wilton’s Music Hall on the 12th and 13th July.
About the Wigmore Hall
The Wigmore Hall is one of the world’s leading venues for chamber music and song. The season includes approximately 400 performances with a range of Lieder, classical music, opera, jazz, masterclasses and educational programs. The Monday lunchtime concert is transmitted live on BBC3.
Wigmore Hall, 36 Wigmore Street, London W1U 2BP Nearest tube: Bond Street
Feature image: Zoe Hunn