Unless I missed it (and it is quite impossible to nod off during such a vibrant production like Ain’t Misbehavin’), there is only the bare minimum amount of exposition about Fats Waller (1904-1943) in a show that seems to have the sole aim of packing in as many of the songs associated with him (I’ve no idea whether he wrote them all or not) as is feasible. You’d honestly find the Wikipedia entry for Waller far more insightful than the show, which is almost wall-to-wall song and dance, dance and song, thirty songs across two acts, each forty-five minutes long, comprising all-out, all-American fun, nothing more and nothing less.
What’s wrong with that? Fundamentally, nothing, especially when the tunes are performed as well as they are here. Just don’t expect to be enlightened about Waller or American jazz of the 1920s and 1930s in general if you aren’t already fairly clued up on it. There were a couple of lovely moments when an older couple in the audience were swaying along to a song, which they were clearly familiar with. Not all the song titles and lyrics have stood the test of time – take ‘I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter’: wouldn’t it be an email or a YouTube video these days?
The cast (Adrian Hansel, Renée Lamb, Carly Mercedes Dyer, Landi Oshinowo and Wayne Robinson) are put through their paces through Oti Mabuse’s well-paced and sophisticated choreography, which added much to a production that could have been a stale, stand-and-deliver affair. It’s Strictly Come Dancing meets Beale Street, Memphis. Waller was never afraid of passing comment on people’s personal appearance – his actual first name was Thomas, but he was himself dubbed ‘Fats’ without irony. In ‘Fat and Greasy’, the audience hears about a man with “big fat liver lips / Shakes like jelly ‘round his hips”, and then there’s a woman that's impossible to dance with because her feet are too big: “Oh your pedal extremities are colossal / To me you look just like a fossil”.
Tyrone Huntley, making his directorial debut, has created something simple but nonetheless slick. A small band of five, led by Alex Cockle on piano, were sublime from beginning to end but opportunities for the band to really let rip and shine on their own without lyrical accompaniment are sparing and momentary. The drummer, Blake Cascoe, was in a separate off-stage isolation booth; it is a pity that space constraints on performance space did not allow for the drum kit to be onstage with everyone else.
Whatever went on with Waller outside his performance schedule was clearly another play (or musical) for another time. There’s a good sense of humour that repeatedly permeates proceedings, and this is a show that puts smiles on many audience members’ faces. A relatively brief but highly enjoyable production.
At Southwark Playhouse until 1 June 2019.
Photo credit: Pamela Raith
I don’t see a lot of horror movies – in fact, these days, with the number of invitations to review theatre productions that come through, plus the shows I wish to see anyway, I don’t watch a lot of movies of any genre. It is difficult to simply sit and watch a film when one is used to engaging one’s powers of analysis, and even more so when one’s companion takes a keen interest in both how movies are made and how watertight (or not) the film’s narrative is. Dr Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves to Maine with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their children, Ellie (Jeté Lawrence) and Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie).
It is also significant for the purposes of the storyline that they have brought their cat, ‘Church’, short for Winston Churchill, with them. The film’s title, Pet Sematary, is spelt in this manner because the cemetery was originally made by children who want to remember their pets by giving them a burial and a place where they can come, lay flowers and pay their respects. A sign that marks the cemetery’s entry point is spelled that way because, at some point, some child or other used the phonetic spelling of the word ‘cemetery’.
Not that this is explained in the film itself. This motion picture is clearly made for the fans of the Stephen King novel on which it is based – they know the finer details of the story already, so do not need the kind of exposition that would have been helpful for yours truly. But, for the record, a number of subplots in the book are left completely unexplored in the movie, probably to stop the film becoming a five-hour marathon. In particular, Louis’ in-laws are neither seen nor mentioned: in the book, Rachel’s father detests Louis for not being nearly as wealthy as he is, therefore (in his mind) reducing his daughter’s future to a life of hard graft instead of a life of luxury. There was even an offer to pay off Louis in order to prevent him from marrying Rachel.
That, I suppose, doesn’t make for good horror in a horror movie, so instead the music swells as a character, be it Louis, Rachel or their neighbour Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), climbs up a staircase painfully slowly in the dark (goodness knows why they didn’t turn the lights on, though they will at least have environmentalists on their side, keeping the use of electric light to a minimum). In other scenes, the cinematography captured the darkness of rural Maine at night a little too well, in that the scenery became almost indistinct.
Essentially, the cat dies, and not because the lifespan of pet cats is shorter than that of their human owners. It’s buried in the pet cemetery but – this being an adaptation of a Stephen King book – it comes back to life, with a different personality to what it used to have. When circumstances later conspire such that the death of a human occurs, Louis, scientifically curious, rather stupidly wants to test his hypothesis that the same would work if that human were buried in the ‘Sematary’ as well.
Too much of the backstory is removed from the film, which raises questions for those unfamiliar with the story. This somewhat detracts from some good acting and moments of tension, and when my companion and I came to discuss the movie afterwards, the overall conclusion was that there are so many holes in the plotline that it is quite possible to drive one of the large trucks that fleetingly feature in the movie through it. That said, it held my attention, and there wasn’t anyone I felt was miscast.
Three stars (out of five).
I read with interest remarks attributed to Sir Matthew Bourne, apparently at the Olivier Awards 2019, in which he paid tributes to his parents who took him to the theatre in his formative years, even if it was always the cheaper seats in the top tier. The exact words were: “I'm just an East End boy who had great parents who took him to the London theatre as a young man. Always in the cheapest seats at the top of the theatre, but that mattered not one bit.” In my own formative years, a friend and I were in central London one evening wanting to go to the pictures in Leicester Square. But we had mistimed ourselves and not having consulted the film listings beforehand, missed the 6pm/6.30pm-ish screenings of what we wanted to see, and with the next screenings not until 8.30pm/9pm, we turned our attention instead to the 7.30pm starts in Theatreland.
Going into the Dominion Theatre, I had no idea who Matthew Bourne was at the time, but he had a show on there called Swan Lake, and we thought it was worth a shot. I made enquiries as to what the cheapest seats were for that evening’s performance. I made my excuses and left: I wouldn’t want to pay £45 to sit in the gods in 2019 with a full-time job let alone in 2000 as a student. We plumped for Les Misérables, at the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, where the cheapest seats at the time were about £11. Being a novice theatregoer, I hadn’t thought to ask what the running time was, and in those days ‘Les Mis’ didn’t let out until 10.45pm. And that’s where my own love of live theatre started.
I didn’t hold anything against Matthew Bourne then, and I hold nothing against him now with regards to not having been able to afford to see his show when he himself was able to sit in the cheap seats in his own student days. If a production can be profitable (and a great many aren’t) then it should go for it – it’s a simple case, for me at least, of supply and demand. And anyway, he hasn’t done too badly, as far as I can tell! Nineteen winters (to sort of quote ‘Les Mis’) later I find myself sat in the (not so) New Wimbledon Theatre, having forked out £48, albeit to sit in Row A of the Stalls, to see a touring production of Swan Lake. It’s the third production I’ve seen of it, the others being an English National Ballet production at the Royal Albert Hall, and a Royal Opera House production.
I get why it’s so popular, inasmuch as I get it in the first place. The programme has no synopsis, unlike the programmes for most ballets, mostly if not entirely because it doesn’t need one. Not that there aren’t elements of the show that are open to the viewer’s perception and interpretation, but this radical adaptation, if I may call it that, has both simplified and clarified a number of narrative points. It’s a different Swan Lake, departing from the usual female ballerinas as swans to having a lake full of male swans instead. Perhaps inevitably, there’s a slight viciousness and bravado that would have been difficult to achieve with lady swans.
My ears are fairly well accustomed to piped in music (it happens in the plays and musicals of ‘fringe’ and ‘pub’ theatre quite regularly) but there was something odd about recorded music being used here. Granted, the costs of an orchestra accompanying the cast on this touring production would have been considerable. But, at the risk of causing a proverbial volcano to erupt, I can’t help wondering what the Musicians’ Union make of being deprived of playing Tchaikovsky’s music live. But that is my only real gripe in an otherwise enthralling evening of movement and extraordinary skill, and ultimately, I can only join the queue of those in praise of this riveting rendering of a ballet classic.
The pot calling the kettle black
One can’t get to everything, and according to Tutku Barbaros who writes for ‘The Tung’, that makes me a “dickhead”, because there’s a double-bill of shows out there that she rather liked, and I’m not reviewing it. The “dickhead” allegation isn’t just for me but for every reviewer who hasn’t seen Killymuck and Box Clever at The Bunker Theatre, presumably including other reviewers who write for ‘The Tung’ that also haven’t seen it. It’s not actually libellous, because if it were, there would have to be some reputational damage sustained as a direct result of her remarks. I see no evidence of that to date.
The artistic director of The Bunker Theatre, Chris Sonnex, agrees with Barbaros’ stance, in which she (Barbaros) also complains that while a million people marched in the anti-Brexit rally recently (untrue: there were a lot of people there, but less than a million), there were empty seats at The Bunker Theatre on the night she went. Well, for one thing, the anti-Brexit rally was free to attend – N-O-T-H-I-N-G is free at The Bunker Theatre. Also, the organisers got the word out, so people knew about it. And the rally was at a decent time of day – I’m told the second play in the double-bill doesn’t start until 9pm, so it is not surprising that some booked for the short play at 7.30pm and not the longer one after it. Oh, and it’s not possible to get a thousand people into The Bunker Theatre, let alone a ‘million’. Perhaps Barbaros and Sonnex think audiences are dickheads as well, just for wanting to get home at a reasonable hour. They might as well criticise people for not attending every single production at the Edinburgh Festivals (the ‘Fringe’ alone has well over 3,000 in the space of four weeks). Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
For the record, Killymuck and Box Clever, the alleged ‘must see’ double-bill, have not been universally applauded. Rob Warren for ‘Everything Theatre’ writes as though he might have left early had he not been reviewing: “…come the end it’s a relief rather than a pleasure”. Niamh Flynn for ‘Upper Circle’ wasn’t keen on Killymuck: “[Kat] Woods’ material feels overcrowded and at times hard to follow”. David James for ‘London City Nights’ gave the double-bill four stars, though this seemed more connected with the political stance of the plays, which happened to be aligned with his own: “You should come out of these shows with a burning desire to prevent any Tory politician from ever seeing a glimpse of office so long as they live”. Viva socialism! (And do I really need a whole show to tell me that the left-wing utterly hate the right-wing?)
In the end, I come down on the side of fellow reviewers. There are many shows in any given week to choose from, and with snobbish and hate-filled attitudes like those displayed by Barbaros and Sonnex, I’d rather go to a theatre where I can reasonably expect to be treated with civility. What Barbaros and Sonnex do not acknowledge is that both Killymuck and Box Clever were reviewed very extensively and very positively at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and those reviews are out there for anyone to see. For instance, Steven Fraser for ‘The Wee Review’ deemed Box Clever to have “a fantastic script that is expertly delivered by the two performers” and Olivia Cooke for ‘Ed Fringe Review’ thought Killymuck was “an hour of pure theatrical perfection”.
Show with soldiers #1: Billy Bishop Goes To War
I’d heard good things about Billy Bishop Goes To War, and the (very) good thing about having a couple of days away from the reviewing circuit is that it allowed me to catch something I would have missed completely – the press nights for both this production’s Jermyn Street Theatre and Southwark Playhouse runs being allocated to other reviewers on account of me seeing other shows elsewhere on the same night. (This isn’t unusual – there are often multiple press nights on the same date. On an evening in May 2019, for instance, I’ll be at Barons Court Theatre for Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, so other reviewers will be at the press nights on the same date for Death of a Salesman at the Young Vic, Die! Die! Die! Old People Die! at Battersea Arts Centre (a provocative title, I know) and the colourfully titled Fuck You Pay Me at The Bunker Theatre – I don’t think they’d want me there anyway, given my above response to their recent communications).
As for Billy Bishop Goes To War, it is, apparently, one of the most widely produced shows in Canadian theatre since it premiered there in 1978. It’s not difficult to see why. Billy in World War One (Charles Aitken) is very much the colonial hero, fighting for the British Empire and its allies against the German Empire and its allies, though by his own admission he’s not the brightest person to rise through the ranks. Billy in World War Two (Oliver Beamish) looks back on the events of the past, including a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps (superseded by the RAF in April 1918). Thus, the audience already knows Billy made it, unlike many, many, many other soldiers.
There are, especially in the last few years with the centenary of the beginning of World War One and centenaries for milestones along the way before the centenary of Armistice Day, a lot of plays about war and soldiering that have been produced. This one at least has something different to offer in the experiences of Billy Bishop (1894-1956), credited with 73 victories. Particularly interesting, and somewhat amusing, was the culture shock he received when he spent time in London. The show does poignancy and poetry, too, especially in its tribute to Albert Ball (1896-1917), a British fighter pilot acclaimed even by the Germans.
It’s classed as a musical, though there wasn’t a list of musical numbers in the show’s programme. But even if there was one, I’d still class it as a play with songs. There are seventeen characters in addition to Billy that the two actors play between them, and although it comes across at times as sheer propaganda, it has a lot of heart.
Show with soldiers #2: Violet
I stand by what I said in my review in January 2019. I enjoyed it sufficiently to grant it a second visit, and this was a ‘muck-up matinee’ as they ought to be, inasmuch as I didn’t notice anything different (though I had my suspicions) and there wasn’t anything that changed the narrative in any way, or outrageous for the sake of outrageousness. The only obviously noticeable thing was musical director Dan Jackson’s cowboy outfit at the curtain call, which made the entire cast beam and grin.
Presented to an early twenty-first century audience, some of its language (the musical is set in Spruce Pine, North Carolina and Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1964) is of its time and there’s a shock factor in such overt racism being portrayed on stage. But that’s how it was, of course. I was rather chuffed for the opportunity to do a random act of kindness after the show: Matthew Harvey, one of the cast members, is running the London Marathon 2019 in aid of Dog’s Trust. As I didn’t have any spare change on me (having used it all up at the self-service checkout), I had that awkward moment of meeting Harvey on the way out as he stood with a collection bucket. Faced with the choice of pretending to ignore he was there or slipping him some paper money, I opted for the latter. I think he liked it.
Show with soldiers #3: Fiddler on the Roof
Yes, it’s really about Teyve (a most engaging Andy Nyman) and his family during the 1905 Russian Revolution rather than the soldiers who were under orders from the Russian Imperial Government. Being part of a Jewish community, Teyve and his folks and friends (and foes) are told to leave their village of Anatevka and resettle outside Russia (in other words, ethnic cleansing). A sort of sympathetic Constable (Craig Pinder) at least gives them as much notice as he is able, so they are able to sell their property and possessions before moving out.
Certain members of the audience at the Saturday night performance I attended seemed very, very angry even before the show had started. One woman lost her temper at being told to move by a security officer who wanted to see that I didn’t have any bombs or guns or smelly food (etc) in my bag, and then loudly told her companions, “I hate them,” referring to the security officer and myself. I apologised – sarcastically, mind you – and while her companions stopped and acknowledged me, “Her Royal Highness” remained aloof.
On my way into the auditorium, a man was complaining to the front of house staff about the legroom in the stalls, saying it was insufficient for anyone over six foot tall. Having been directed in the general direction of my seat I simply carried on walking without hearing the outcome of that conversation. There does seem to be a legroom problem in the Playhouse Theatre, to be fair: it was quite impossible to let anyone in without not only getting up but moving out into the aisle. This didn’t stop a most unsympathetic member of staff shouting at people several times to sit down as the show was allegedly about to start. And I don’t think I’ll ever understand why people go to the theatre and loudly grumble all the way through in their seats instead of walking out. I had more respect for a man who said to his partner at the interval that they should find a pub – and off they went.
And the show? A cast of at least two-dozen plus an eight-piece orchestra (if you can call an eight-piece band an ‘orchestra’, as the show’s programme does) makes the stage seem very crowded, perhaps even more so in its previous incarnation in the smaller Menier Chocolate Factory. More entrances and exits seemed to be made through the centre aisle of the stalls more than stage left or stage right – on more than one occasion someone would walk to the rear of the stalls and then walk back onto the stage, which was (to be blunt) pointless and distracting. The lighting design could have been better in places – in the larger ensemble scenes there’s lots going on but not all of it could be seen! Worth seeing though, especially for anyone who hasn’t seen a live theatre production of Fiddler on the Roof before. Proper reviews, as ever, are available elsewhere, including ones from my good friends Terry Eastham and Emma Clarendon.
The thing about a small crowd at a comedy gig is that one could sit at the rear of the auditorium and still get picked on in the introductory, ‘hello, what’s your name, where do you come from and what do you do for a living?’ section. I probably look about as boring as I am – heartless bastard with no time or energy for a love life after the day job, then seeing 300 live performances a year and reviewing the vast majority of those (as if I have the money to pay to see 300 shows a year). So, I wasn’t asked to interact. I might as well have had the words ‘No Audience Participation’ printed on my forehead. The problem with that, of course, is that such a sign will be taken as an open invitation. I can’t win. Anyway, three acts performed at this ‘Comedy Round Mine April 2019’ (that’s honestly what it was called) at the Time and Leisure Studio in Wimbledon town centre, a handy twenty-minute walk home for me afterwards.
I got the impression Carly Smallman brings her comedy show to Wimbledon fairly often, but the Monday night slot is a bit of a graveyard one – I suspect even a Sunday night would have resulted in a few more people coming through the doors. Nonetheless, she managed to make some straightforward stories about how some couples sat in the front row met more amusing than they were with the benefit of hindsight, though one ‘couple’ wasn’t a couple at all. Having struck up a friendship whilst tending to adjacent allotments, the older man, an octogenarian, ‘adopted’ the younger woman, so his ‘daughter’ drives him around and generally makes sure he’s all right. Aww.
Wendy Wason spoke about what it is like to raise children – a challenging experience, to say the least. The parents in the room identified well with it all and people like me sat there and found her stories to be assuring affirmations of our decisions not to go down the route of getting married and raising a family. Out of context, some might have taken umbrage with the element in her routine of – in effect – taking the mickey out of the sort of things children with a limited worldview say. Her children, as everyone else’s are, are growing up quickly, and there are awkward moments to chuckle at, such as when she is introduced to ‘Grand Theft Auto’ by a child. Closing gambit: “always pay the prostitute”.
Joe Sutherland grew up in Coventry and later moved to the capital, but still finds misconceptions of what a same-sex relationship is like abound pretty much everywhere. His boyfriend is rather more muscular in appearance than he is – the boyfriend wasn’t there, so I must take Sutherland at his word. But what irritates Sutherland is that people like to assume, in so many words, that it’s the boyfriend that “wears the trousers”. The whole point, Sutherland muses, of a relationship that comprises two men, is that they both wear trousers, both literally and figuratively. Millennial culture and mannerisms also came in for a bit of a beating. A bittersweet but nonetheless enjoyable set.
Ninia Benjamin had come down from Chingford, and there was a lengthy description about how she dislikes the London Overground – miss one, and it’s a fifteen-minute wait – so was quite happy taking the Northern line to South Wimbledon (with a train every three minutes). She’s one of those people that portrays themselves as less intellectual than they really are. An example – confusing ‘Brexit’ for ‘breadsticks’, her argument in favour of Remain consisted of the potential loss of multipack chocolate bars that were made in the EU. I think that’s what it was, anyway – I had trouble keeping up with her quick-fire routine. She talked about her fanny quite a lot, too, and I did find a punchline about never becoming a vegan because, if I may put it slightly more politely than she did, semen is not plant-based. Certain vegans will grumble and say that it’s fine to swallow because no animals are harmed during blowjobs. But most people, irrespective of their dietary requirements, will recognise a joke for what it is.
People in the entertainment industry sometimes mention supporting local theatre – though I am in a relatively unique position of having the West End less than an hour away from my front door. But every so often it is a good thing to pop down to see something in one’s own part of the world.
I was trying to think what on earth would link a touring production of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, a short play, Waking Up Dead, about the effects of domestic abuse on a previously gregarious young lady, and two concerts, the first being a whistle stop tour through the professional musical theatre career of Debbie Kurup, the second containing sixteen numbers from the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon. Aside from being shows I went along to in the same weekend, they were all retrospective in nature.
To misquote Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hair is Hair is Hair, and all the elements from two previous productions I’ve had the privilege of seeing (Geoids Musical Theatre at the Bridewell in 2016, and before that, the Gielgud Theatre run in 2010) were present in this one from Aria Entertainment. Seeing it from the third row of the stalls, it might as well have been called Wigs. It was very energetic, though there wasn’t quite the same level of fourth-wall breaking that the Broadway cast that was brought over to Shaftesbury Avenue in 2010 achieved. But then, this is a British cast presenting Hair to a British audience. Yes, for the record, they all get their kit off prior to the interval.
A band of five, led by Gareth Bretherton, comprising keyboards, two guitars, drums and bass guitar, was occasionally supplemented by uncredited others. Berger (Jake Quickenden) started off very well but his stage presence wasn’t consistently maintained. At least his American accent was consistent throughout, which wasn’t the same for everyone. It’s tempting to name names, but I can’t be bothered to embarrass anyone. The stand-out performance for me came from Paul Wilkins’ Claude, with one of those singing voices that could listen to all day if only my life weren’t quite so busy.
Waking Up Dead is a play I’d seen twice before, put together by some local friends, one of whom is married to an ex-colleague (we both resigned – at different times – from the same company, and are infinitely happier having left that terrible workplace). The hasn’t had a huge amount of coverage, mostly because it has only been put on a handful of times by Safeword Theatre UK, still a small outfit as this is their debut production.
With after-show drinks and conversation that carried on until 2am (partly on account of British Summer Time kicking in at 1am), I’d not spent quite so much time in Wimbledon in some years. I got to New Wimbledon Theatre for Hair just prior to the 2:30pm start of the matinee performance and stayed in the town centre for dinner before shooting off to the evening show. When I arrived, the Mayor of Merton, Councillor Mary Curtin, was already outside the door to the Merton Arts Space, which shares a building with the Wimbledon Library, and the door was firmly shut.
A confused moment or two later (there is more than one entrance to the building), once it was determined we could come in after all, and the production team hadn’t called the whole thing off at the last minute, the Mayor turned to me and said, “No early night for me then!” The Mayor was a nurse when she came to England from County Tipperary in Ireland. And that’s all I got to find out about her, because she was ushered into the hall and given the mayoral treatment, making use of the conveniences, being introduced to the producers, and so on and so forth.
Jenny Perry and Camilla Yates were tasked with a monologue each, the first telling the story of Sandra, the second providing a different perspective on events from Sandra’s sister. As Safeword Theatre has no plans to put the play on again – it appears to have run its course and served its purpose, or so I’m told – I may as well (proverbially) projective vomit a spoiler or two, or ten. Sandra is married to Paul, who was rather charming to begin with but gradually began to exert ever-increasing levels of control over Sandra’s life. But she was in love with him and would and did quite literally a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g that was asked of her, including resigning from a job she liked earning a living from (as far as one can reasonably ‘like’ employment – I’m sure you understand). Paul gets angrier and angrier until his fury manifests itself in the form of an assault. The neighbours overhear Sandra’s pleas for him to stop and put a call in to the police.
He is taken away having been arrested, she is taken away in an ambulance to Accident and Emergency. She eventually succumbs to her injuries, surrounded by her family. The same night that Sandra passes, Paul is barred from a pub for being obnoxious, and having had so much to drink he can hardly walk in a straight line, his perception of his surroundings fails him, and he dies in a road traffic collision. The play’s original final act was to include a short(ish) monologue from a police officer, who would, amongst other things, go through the various options as to what help and assistance is available. This was cut completely, if only because an actor pulled out and the team did not wish to re-cast, but I thought it worked perfectly fine without what would effectively have amounted to a post-mortem lecture.
Thank goodness for good mothers, and thank goodness for Debbie Kurup’s mother, who arrived at The Crazy Coqs even later than I did (thank you, London Underground, for not running to your supposed timetables), such that I didn’t miss any of Kurup’s ‘Songs for Mother’s Day’ concert. Steve Holness was at the piano, and while I can’t think of anyone who didn’t do a splendid job sat at The Crazy Coqs’ piano, this was something quite incredible. But then, as Kurup pointed out, Holness (who is also Kurup’s fiancé) has worked with Adele, Paul Weller, Petula Clark and the late Amy Winehouse. It was a short and sweet – and eclectic – mix of showtunes and popular music, in a variety of musical styles, with some anecdotes thrown in. in other words, everything one would expect from a theatre star doing their own show. Kurup and Holness are running the London Marathon 2019, supporting Crohn’s and Colitis UK: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/steviekeys2019
Leicester Square was the quietest I had experienced it to be for some time, it being a Sunday night, so I had no problem getting myself a table in a restaurant even though I hadn’t pre-booked. As I pointed out on social media, an American tourist had correctly pronounced ‘Gloucester Road’ whilst in conversation with his companions, which I was impressed by. After dinner I popped back to The Crazy Coqs for an evening of showtunes composed by Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) and written by Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960). It replaced a Jason Robert Brown concert which was moved to the infinitely larger Theatre Royal Haymarket: but TRH has taken quite enough of my money for the time being after I saw Only Fools and Horses The Musical recently, and in any event I find his songs seem to go on longer than a General Election campaign.
This, too, was a perfectly splendid concert, this time with Henry Brennan at the piano. Georgia Lennon, a soprano studying at Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom, a performing arts college that doesn’t exactly have the largest of intakes each year but whose graduates do tend to go on to have stellar careers in entertainment, won a competition run by ‘Crazy Coqs Presents’, led by Mark Petty, and gave a note-perfect performance of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from Carousel. Petty is already running another competition for his next Crazy Coqs concert, one of the relatively few announcements on social media on the morning of 1st April that was absolutely bona fide.
I thought the selection of songs was excellent, including very familiar tunes from The Sound of Music and lesser known works such as Flower Drum Song. Tim Rogers had the unenviable job of singing the Soliloquy from Carousel, apparently an eight-minute number (I say ‘apparently’ as it didn’t feel ‘long’ and I didn’t time it). The other soloists were as sublime as one another: Jon Tarcy, who I have never seen in a musical but has a remarkable singing voice; Amara Okereke, the current Cosette in the West End production of Les Misérables; Christina Bennington, who has done a good number of shows in her career to date but, let’s face it, most (including me) associate her with playing the female lead in Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell The Musical; and Vicki Lee Taylor, who played Miss Honey in the 2017-18 West End cast of Matilda The Musical, and most recently played Jodie in the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch production of Kiss Me Quickstep.
What I didn’t know before is that The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization have released a series called ‘R&H Goes Pop!’, which allows interpretations of the R&H canon using more contemporary arrangements that wouldn’t be out of place on chart music radio. A couple of these arrangements were included in this concert: they are fresh and different, allowing audiences to hear these songs in a new way – some videos can be seen on the Rodgers & Hammerstein YouTube page. I admit to being slightly exhausted by all of the above, but I don’t regret any of it in the end.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.