If life is a cabaret then so is death, claims this handsomely presented Cambridge University song cycle. I'll buy that. Unfortunately, it's really more of a sketch show with a theme, and like most sketch shows it is hit and miss. Impressive production values can't quite disguise the limits of the material.
At its best, the songs by Mairin O'Hagan and Jeff Carpenter (who accompanies on the piano with the flourishes of a Young Musician of the Year) have the gentle charm of Maltby and Shire. "She's Not Always on My Mind" has a touching finish and "Playing the Death Card" is probably the funniest number. But although the piece has plenty of insights, few are developed beyond the headline of their individual songs and fewer earn the length at which they're told.
One feels that a 15-minute medley would show off the material to greater effect than a full hour. And although a show on this subject has little it can do to avoid a 'carpe diem' finish, here it does so with a catchy curtain number.
Director Andy Brock and lighting designer Stuart Webb provide impressive spectacle and class. One feels, though, that a higher standard needed to be set for the material before their jobs began. For all their talent, the show is a bit lifeless.
- by Benet Catty