Essex is certainly no stranger to musical theatre. His big break came in 1971 when, as a 23-year old newcomer he was cast as Jesus in the original London production of Godspell. Other roles have included Fletcher Christian in Mutiny! (which he also co-wrote) and Che in the original cast of Evita, which gave him a top 3 hit in 1978 (“Oh What a Circus”). He is also currently appearing as Uncle George in a national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love (See News, 8 Mar 2007).
Set against the backdrop of a travelling funfair, All the Fun of the Fair tells the story of widower and funfair owner Levi Lee (Essex), who’s coming to terms with the loss of his wife and battling the attentions of a newly-divorced woman. He’s also struggling to deal with his rebellious teenage son’s tangled love life, and the gloomy predictions of a gypsy fortune-teller.
The musical is co-written by Jon Conway, the creator of Boogie Nights, who explains that the idea was born when he worked with Essex on Boogie Nights 2 in 2005. “My first thought, especially given David’s association and my background, was to create a show set on a fairground. I believed the notion to be romantic, with interesting characters that fits his music and has never been done since Carousel!” Conway goes on to promise that the show will provide “a fresh, novel story in an unusual setting, but with the comfort of so many great hit songs”.
These songs include familiar hits such as “Winter\'s Tale”, “Hold Me Close”, “Gonna Make You a Star”, “Rock On” and “Silver Dream Machine”, as well as a few less well-known album tracks that Essex and his musical associate Ian Wherry have adapted especially for the show. The premiere production is directed by Nikolai Foster, designed by Colin Richmond and presented by Alan Darlow Productions in partnership with the Churchill Theatre.
After Bromley, All the Fun of the Fair visits Darlington, Stoke, Brighton, Southend, Wolverhampton, Manchester, Glasgow, Bradford, Woking, Dartford and Cardiff, where its current schedule finishes on 6 December 2008. Further dates for the new year are still to be announced.
- by Theo Bosanquet