Diana Sheehan, photo by Mark Oristano

Theater Review: Searching for Gertrude Lawrence on Out of the Loop Fringe Festival

A lady lost to history no more.

If all you know about Gertrude Lawrence is her performance of “Getting to Know You” from the movie The King and I, Diana Sheehan is on mission to change that. Sprinkled throughout her newest cabaret, Searching for Gertrude Lawrence, are gossipy factoids and shocking anecdotes about the performer who was once the most fascinating woman in the world.

Lawrence’s tempestuous life makes for good between-song fodder, and Sheehan seems tickled to share her research with an enraptured audience. Sheehan is an OOTL favorite, having won Best of the Loop for the past two years, and the audience at her first performance seemed primed to lap up every note and word. The show, separated into two acts, features forgotten tunes and beloved classics by the likes of Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Kurt Weill, Rodgers & Hammerstein, and Noel Coward (who, it was rumored wrote, every female role with Lawrence in mind).

When she’s in “performance mode,” Sheehan can come off as a bit cloying and over-calculated. It’s when she let’s her guard down—joking with the audience, flirting with her surprise backup singers, swirling the voluminous skirts of her ball gown—that the cabaret really begins to sparkle.

See It? Do you like juicy tabloids and urbane banter? Then channel your inner Noel Coward.

Studio Theatre, repeats Mar. 15 at 8 p.m. and Mar. 16 at 2 p.m.