New End Theatre
Where: Inner London
12 August 2009 WOS Rating: Average Reader Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews There is nothing groundbreaking about The Great American Songbook. But that’s the point. This is good old-fashioned entertainment packed with great songs and strong performances.
The format of the evening is simple, taking the audience on a journey through some of the best music ever written in the history of American popular music. This golden era encompasses a period from about 1920 to 1960 and includes the music of such prolific composers as Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin and Jerome Kern.
Director Heather Simpkin has created a simplistic and effective setting in order to let the music sing for itself. The blend of songs works extremely well, and the addition of narration by the singers and choreography by Charlotte Wood helps the evening run smoothly. With an excellent live band, led by Andy Rumble, the audience is transported to an intimate jazz club setting. The band alone sound fantastic in both their ‘solo’ numbers; particularly memorable is the opening of Act Two,
It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) by Duke Ellington.
The songs of course are standalone works of art. However, as performed by the three singers (Paul Roberts, Louisa Parry and Ray Caruana), their timeless popularity is further emphasised. Paul Roberts, formerly of The Stranglers, is a charming crooner with strong acting ability, while Louisa Parry is a supremely talented vocalist. Her rendition of
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered is mesmerising and she gives a scat singing masterclass in Blue Skies, evoking the legendary Ella Fitzgerald. Completing the trio, Ray Caruana is a treat for the ears, and possesses a fine comic touch. The Cole Porter Medley and Ol’ Man River by Jerome Kern are particularly memorable.
This production deserves a longer outing, and with the wealth of music available,
The Great American Songbook is unlikely to grow stale.
- Andrew Roach
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