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Posts Tagged ‘David Albury’

Why on earth has it taken 20 years for this unlikely Broadway hit musical by Cy Coleman and Ira Gasman to reach London? Like Guys & Dolls decades before it, The Life places NYC street-life centre stage, but it’s not the lovable rogues of the 50’s, it’s the prostitutes and their parasitic pimps of the 90’s. I was bowled over by it. Time to open another superlatives box.

Memphis runs most of the girls on these particular blocks, except Queen, whose small-time ex-military druggie boyfriend Fleetwood purports to be her pimp. JoJo has higher aspirations, recruiting girls for a Californian porn mogul; though his latest NYC newcomer Mary isn’t as innocent as she seems. Long-time pro Sonja is the godmother of the girls. Memphis is determined to add Queen to his roster at all costs and the show turns very dark when he seeks to implement his plan.

Like The Wild Party recently at The Other Palace, it’s a raunchy jazzy score packed with showstoppers that showcase just about everyone of the 16-strong cast, and what a cast Ann Vosser has assembled. Long time favourite Sharon D Clarke is on sparkling form, totally inhabiting the role of Sonja, with stunning vocals that seem effortless. T’Shan Williams is less known to me and she’s simply terrific as Queen; a real find. Cornell S John has huge presence and to say he’s easy to loathe is a compliment to his characterisation of Memphis. David Albury, excellent in the Union Theatre’s Love Story, excels in a very different role here as Fleetwood. Joanna Woodward navigates her character Mary from seemingly naïve new arrival to wannabe porn start well, again with fine vocals. John Addison’s JoJo is a cool but oily chancer; another great characterisation. There a faultless supporting cast and a sensational 11-piece band under Tamara Saringer.

It’s a long evening, but for me it sustained its length. I left the theatre on a high and I was still on it the following day. Unmissable stuff.

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I haven’t read Erich Segal’s book and I never saw the film, but I fell in love with this Howard Goodall / Stephen Clark musical adaptation when I first saw it at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester and then invested in its West End transfer. This first London revival proves that a show as good as this only needs fine performers and musicians, which is exactly what director Sasha Regan has for her simple, delicate and moving production.

We follow Oliver & Jenny’s relationship from their first meeting (confrontation!) through his hockey games, her piano recitals, meeting the respective parents, their wedding and first apartment. Jenny’s widowed dad worships and supports her; in contrast, Oliver becomes estranged from his dad. Her diagnosis with leukaemia tears their world apart and we watch her die in his arms. It’s beautifully framed by scenes at her funeral.

Victoria Serra is wonderful as the spiky, feisty, fiercely independent Jenny and David Albury is equally good as stubborn but loving Oliver, besotted with her. They have great chemistry together, like Emma Williams & Michael Xavier in the original production, which is so crucial in this story. It’s a faultless supporting cast, with Neil Stewart giving a particularly moving performance as Jenny’s dad Phil. The band seems to have lost its violin, but the score sounds great from the trio of piano, guitar & cello under MD Inga Davis-Rutter. It really is beautifully sung. No room for, and no need of, anything but a few props and excellent lighting to provide the perfect intimate setting for this most intimate of shows.

I was devastated to be out of the country for the whole run of The Dreaming, but delighted to see this and now excited to see the forthcoming (and very underrated) Girlfriends. Britain’s greatest living composer of musicals getting a long deserved season of three revivals. Yippee!

 

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