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All the Fun of the Fair (Tour - Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Roll up! Roll up! to All The Fun Of The Fair as David Essex’s musical back catalogue is shrouded in a theatricality of Ferris wheels and rock and roll attractions in a revival tour of this thrilling spectacle.

Essex plays fairground owner Levi Lee, recently widowed and struggling to embrace a relationship with his wayward son amidst a tangled web of unrequited love and the stigma of living as travellers. But beneath the candyfloss and carnival of the funfair lurks a vicious underbelly world where scores are settled and lives are lost.

The popstar/actor strips back the showmanship to delight audiences with some of his greatest hits whilst still managing to exude the natural warmth and audience connection capable of a true veteran performer. Rob Compton is captivating as rebellious romantic Jack Lee and Tim Newman’s impressive vocal abilities manage to compensate for his mildly irritating portrayal of the half-witted Jonny.

The musical numbers are punchy and well staged with the classic hits "Hold me Close" and "Rock On" stirring the audience into swaying along. But the narrative is slow to unfold, limping along without the charisma and energetic dialogue needed to carry the score. It gathers pace in Act 2 and dynamic rock anthem "Dangerous" manages to upstage the less powerful numbers. The action eventually builds to a roller coaster crescendo with tragic consequences and Essex captures perfectly the loss and reflection with his calm reprise of "It’s Gonna Be Alright."

Of course David Essex fans will be in their element but this humorous and adventurous musical will appeal to young and old alike, and judging by the standing ovation during the final applause, All The Fun Of The Fair will be rolling up to theatres for a long time to come.

- Sarah Bloomer


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