Hazel Kyte shows all aboard needn’t be bored.
Among a number of companies whose cruise-liners I have experienced, P & O’s Artemis, offered on-board entertainment far surpassing any other experienced.
Bruce Morrison writes and directs for the Theatre Company, also performing cabaret on board Artemis. The company, comprising of eight girls and two men, present seven different shows. F-ABBA-ULOUS gives MAMMA MIA a run for its money, with great voices, choreography and costumes. ANOTHER OPENING, ANOTHER SHOW gives 50 years and 50 songs of top musicals: Bernstein, Rogers, Hart, Hammerstein, Sondheim, Löesser and Cole Porter. I WRITE THE SONGS showcases music of the 70s and 80s, with tributes to Barry Manilow, Elton John and Peter Allen. DOWN THE LANE – (my personal favourite) brings to life hits from the Theatre Royal Drury Lane – Chorus Line, Oklahoma, 42nd Street, Anything Goes, Hello Dolly!, My Fair Lady. I could have watched all night.
SWINGING 60S, LIVE’N’SWINGING, and finally WORLDSTEPS all give good music another airing, with songs and fabulous choreography and costumes. And by way of a bonus, the opportunity for a ‘backstage peep’, as the boys and girls demonstrated their quick changes, answered questions on their backgrounds and aspirations , and showed the hard work that goes into making them the success they are. But I think the secret of this company is the sheer pleasure they derive themselves, which is passed to the audience.
Bruce in his own right performs ANY DREAM WILL DO, a tribute to the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber, WE ARE NOT AMUSED in which he gives ‘An Entertainment’ in song, poetry, gossip and legend based on the life, loves and laughter of Queen Victoria., with a wonderful selection of accents as Bruce characterises many of the men in the great lady’s life.
By contrast in HAMMERSTEIN & CO., Bruce tells and sings not only the more recent hits, such as The King & I and OKLAHOMA! but also the lyricist’s earlier partnerships with Jerome Kern, Sigmund Romberg and George Bizet – giving such greats as Desert Song, Rose Marie, Showboat and Carmen Jones. This is the best sort of cabaret, where you learn about the composer, his life and the people with whom he worked.
Another evening of song and informative anecdotes was AN INVITATION TO THE OSCARS, with a selection from Oscar-winning films over the past 80 years, from Al Jolson, Fred Astaire, and even Shirley Temple, to the more recent and recognised My Fair Lady, right up to Titanic.
And yet again, I loved THE BEST OF BRITISH, in which Bruce travels the British
Isles, with stories songs and poetry, in an amazing variety of accents, from ‘Albert and the Lion’, to ‘Paddy McGinty’s Goat’, from skittish to serious ballads.
In the final one man show, Bruce gave ‘CRY GOD FOR LARRY’; a celebration in words and music of Laurence Olivier and William Shakespeare; this piece (written and directed by David Owen Bell) was the first time Shakespeare has been performed on a P & O liner, while Bruce’s new-grown moustache gives him a look of the young Larry..
Along with the purple passages from Henry V, Othello, Merchant of Venice, Hamlet and Macbeth – to name but a few – come such characters as Elsie Fogarty (Founder and Principal of Central School of Speech and Drama), Binkie Beaumont (renowned theatre producer and manager), Judith Anderson and Kenneth Tynan. Bruce alters accents, inflections and apparent age; each piece is vigorous and vital, and holds an audience, many not normally Shakespeare fans, enthralled.
We survived a near-hurricane (Bruce did not include The Tempest). Sea voyagers should look out for Headliners and Bruce; until you’ve watched them, in the words of Al Jolson ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’.
Casts include: Annabel King, Michelle Roswell, Neil Couperthwaite, Jeff Crossland, Becky Jeram (Head Girl), Natalie Brazier, Liane Munsch, Rebecca Hannan, Louise
Henry, Andrea Brennan. Miles Foreman (MD) Bela Romer (PM) Tony Godhino (Ent Ass) Christine Noble (Cruise Director).