The comic musical impressionist Greg London claims to have fulfilled his childhood dream by performing his own show in the West End. He may be the great-grandson of music-hall legend Marie Lloyd and was apparently born within the sound of Bow Bells, but he has lived almost all his life in America and his brand of schmaltzy, glitzy cabaret is pure Vegas.
Although he has made his career primarily in corporate entertainment and by giving private performances to celebrities such as Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger, London certainly seems very comfortable in a public arena, and the subterranean nightclub style of The Venue suits his show well. However, his stage presence is more bland than charismatic, while the accuracy of his impressions of singers varies wildly. He's not helped by a truly dreadful script from Paul Miller, which is based on how London finally made it "big" in showbiz after years of failure.
The central idea is that London hears the voices of "icons" such as Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash in his head, which we hear as recordings by London through the sound system. Guided by their spirits, he's able to impersonate the likes of Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow as he performs parts of songs like “Maggie May”, “It’s Not Unusual”, “Love on the Rocks” and “Mandy”. While London makes a convincing Bob Dylan and Billy Joel, some of these impressions are little better than the average tribute artist in your local pub.
With a variety of costume changes and props, London attempts to suggest the physical appearance as well as the vocal mannerisms of the icons, again with mixed success. The funniest moments are the duet between the odd couple of Kermit the Frog and Ozzy Osbourne, and his send-up of the miserable James Blunt. But in contrast to the contestants in TV’s Stars in Your Eyes, London spreads himself too thinly to do many of the singers justice.
However, if the singing is inconsistent, the comic patter in between the songs is uniformly bad. The banter he shares with his three female backing singers and band is sometimes excruciating – it tries to pass itself off as spontaneous but comes across as very stilted, with apparent ad libs obviously scripted. And although London frequently addresses the audience directly, there's no sense of real engagement.
London’s band (Chris Cooke, Barbara Leoni, Danny Leoni and David Zeman) does a reasonable job, while Nina Millins, Abigail Rosser and Lucy Thatcher bring glamour and move well as his backing singers/dancers. But the slick direction from David Taylor is unable to bring any life to this corny cabaret.
- Neil Dowden