Sunday, 22 September 2013

Kitty La Roar - Queen of the New Jazz Age

Kitty la Roar and Nick of Time
Putting on the jazz style

She sang in the bath for an EDF TV ad, but Kitty La Roar also rocks a neat line in vintage jazz age dresses, whether backed by a full orchestra in the touring theatre show Sinatra, Sequins and Swing, or in hip London cabaret clubs like the Cellar Door with her pianist husband Nick of Time.

In this interview which recently appeared in The Stage, Kitty told me all about the vintage jazz scene.

How did you get into vintage jazz?

I got seriously into it when I was about 8, growing up in Bolton. I was a strange child, but I loved Ella Fitzgerald’s voice - that soft, intimate vibrato that was really pleasurable to listen to. I also like the sophistication of the melodies in the great American songbook. There’s something whimsical about it, but something dark as well.

The cat's meow
Kitty La Roar in
Sinatra, Sequins & Swing
Where did you get the name Kitty La Roar?

I did a drama degree at Goldsmith College and a couple of us were trying to come up with camp alter egos for cabaret work. We came up with the name between us. I’m planning a new jazz project in a couple of months and I was actually thinking of changing the name in case it wouldn’t be taken seriously. But having talked to a few people from musicians to promoters, everyone seems to like Kitty La Roar, so it’s probably something I’ll stick with.

How did you meet Nick?

I saw him playing piano at The Edge in Soho. He was inviting people to get up and do a song, so I got up and sang My Funny Valentine. We did a few gigs and kind of circled each other for a while. It was the usual worry of can you have a working relationship with someone you’re involved with? But it’s worked out really well. We’ve got residencies at the Savoy and the Dorchester. Then we play a little place called the Cellar Door in Covent Garden where we experiment with our jazz stuff. It used to be a gents toilet and it’s tiny. It holds about 40 people, which is nice, because you can see people’s reactions and when they like a song it’s lovely to see.

How big is the vintage jazz scene at the moment?

It’s becoming more and more popular. It used to be that rockabilly was the counter-culture look, but now it’s more of a Hot Club, 1920s and 30s look. We’ll get 18 and 20-year-olds coming to gigs and they look immaculate. The interesting thing is, when we started playing the Cellar Door we were doing cabaret but we’ve shifted to more of a jazz profile and the audience has got bigger.

How did you get involved with Sinatra, Sequins and Swing?

I met Kevin Fitzsimmons, who has a lovely tone for Frank Sinatra songs, when we were both doing gigs at a racecourse. He was telling me his plans for the show and thought I’d be good for the glamorous sequin element. It’s a lot of fun. I get 8 costume changes and it’s rare to get the opportunity to sing songs like Marilyn Monroe’s Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend with the full arrangements. There are Rat Pack shows that don’t sound anything like the quality of a big band, and it’s the big band people go to see, really.

For details of Kitty's gigs with Nick of Time and Sinatra, Sequins & Swing, go to

For a fictional look at the vintage scene, meanwhile, try Polka Dot Dreams by Julia Douglas. Click here to try before you buy.

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