HOLLY'S HOT SPOT - The Scotsman (4 stars) - 27th August 2005
She is extraordinary. Everything about her - her voice, her persona, even her clothes seem to tremble on the brink of total meltdown. But it is her audience who melts. The first thing that is striking is how much she calls to mind Liza Minnelli. The marshmallow sibilants, the vibrato that she luxuriates in, the urgency, the seeming vulnerability, the gestures and the throaty laugh. She is a performer to surrender yourself to. The voice is terrific and she really knows how to use it, from the tiny trembling headvoice she uses on Joni Mitchell's 'Both Sides Now', through the sexy, husky whisper we get on 'What Would Love Do?', one of her own compositions to a full belt on classics like 'Le Jazz Hot' and 'I Wanna Be Evil', that has your free cocktail ( well, you'll get one if you are lucky ) trembling in it's glass. The cabaret diva is not really a species native to this country, so you should take this opportunity to enjoy this wonderful, outrageous creature, with her extravagant, colourful plumage. Penfield changes, drag-queen-like, behind an onstage screen and talks us through every step of the procedure. When she has a problem doing up a dress, or fastening a belt, we know. She is hugely endearing in a high maintainance sort of way. Her mix of classics like 'Rhythm Of Life', unexpected delights like the gorgeous 'Here's To Life', and her own songs make for a marvellous ninety minutes that is never, ever predictable. Even her arrangements ( by Rob Taggart ) are fresh and classy. Her musicians look like they are having a ball, which is unusual for backing-musicians-for-hire. They are good guys and they are Ricky Steel on bass, Chris Wallace on drums, a very smiley Ian Ritchie on sax and Paul Kirby, a piano player who looks like he really oughtn't to be up that late, but has the loveliest, lightest touch on the keys. Minus her fun wigs, all tousled blonde head on a body that makes Calista Flockhart look like Dawn French, Penfield can look scarily like an incredibly thin Esther Rantzen. But she turns the upstairs room at C Venue into a New York jazz spot, she is a captivating, compelling performer and I feel sorry for anyone who ends this August without discovering her.