Pure Imagination (St James Theatre)

Leslie Bricusse’s inimitable contribution to musical theatre as a writer, composer and lyricist is celebrated in this uplifting show

Leslie Bricusse was in the audience at the St James Theatre for the world premiere of Pure Imagination, a celebration of his extraordinary back catalogue of songs from stage and screen musicals spanning six decades. Joan Collins was also there to hear the many numbers her former husband, the late Anthony Newley, co-wrote with Bricusse.

And although they were not written to be sung together in this linear fashion, director Christopher Renshaw has created a loose narrative to link the songs, with a variety of romantic, contemplative, or more tongue-in-cheek themes – with the Pink Panther theme leading into "Talk to the Animals" – and Matthew Cole‘s musical staging gives the songs an engaging visual context.

For die-hard musical theatre fans, all these numbers are instantly recognisable. But even for the less seasoned, Bricusse has a stunning range of memorable tunes stretching across the genres, from the innocence of Willy Wonka‘s "Pure Imagination", to Lonnie Donnegan’s uproarious hit "My Old Man’s A Dustman".

It seems a shame to serve up what some might consider to be jewels in the crown – marvellous Bond themes – as a medley. But leading man Dave Willetts makes the most of his Martini moment as he leads the ensemble rendition of "Goldfinger", with Niall Sheehy taking the honours in "You Only Live Twice".

Musical star Siobhan McCarthy is back to full-on glamour and glitz after a stint as pie-seller Mrs Lovett, and she is clearly relishing the challenges of the songs – sparring very entertainingly with Willetts in "Hollywood Wives/Two Timer", and rightfully taking the lead in the final, brassy delight of "Feeling Good".

Julie Atherton brings a bright charm to her performance, and a delicate tenderness to "Can You Read My Mind", the love theme from Superman.

King of the show is Giles Terera, whose sure-footed moves, powerhouse voice and sheer showmanship bring a special zing to his numbers, with highlights including a sparkling "The Candy Man" and a goosebump-inducing "What Kind of Fool Am I".

Musical director Michael England plays the piano with a wonderful energy and lightness of touch and leads an impeccable band.

Tim Goodchild‘s stylish design has sheet music tumbling down and swirling onto the stage, and Timothy Bird‘s video design brings an extra dimension.

Maybe it’s the huge voices in a relatively small theatre – singers of this quality scarcely need their mics – but this has the feel of a bigger show wanting to break out.

All its stars are devoted to Bricusse, and it’s clear how much he is loved and respected. Pure Imagination is an uplifting musical delight and a fitting tribute to a unique talent.

Pure Imagination runs at the St James Theatre until 17 October 2015.