PURE IMAGINATION – the songs of Leslie Bricusse.
devised by Leslie Bricusse, Christopher Renshaw & Danielle Tarento.
St James Theatre 12 Palace Street SW1 3JA To 17 October 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 264 2140.
Review: William Russell 29 September.
More imagination needed.
This beautifully performed concert of songs by Leslie Bricusse as composer or as lyricist for other composers is not a show. The trouble is one of diminishing returns. Splendidly though the five-strong cast perform the numbers, good though the larger than usual orchestra is, it all grows wearing as the songs, out of context, become increasingly pointless.
The musical revue with compère has become something of a theatrical cliché, but Bricusse’s long career is full of fascinating facts and anecdotes which would have illumined the songs and enlightened the audience. This concert format means every song ends on a crescendo, everything is hammered home relentlessly with much smiling at the audience.
It is not the cast’s fault. Dave Willetts shows exactly how to put over a song and there is good work from the other four – Siobhan McCarthy delivers a raunchy ‘Le Jazz Hot’ from Victor Victoria, Giles Terera channels Sammy Davis beautifully, while Niall Sheehy, chiselled of cheekbones and Julie Atherton make delightful ingénues. More imagination from director Christopher Renshaw would not have gone amiss.
Nothing can conceal that Bricusse’s heyday was his collaboration with Anthony Newley on musicals like Stop the World – I Want to Get Off and The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd, or films like Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.
Words would have meant fewer songs, but some like the dreary ‘Two for the Road’ could well be ditched as could the unused Bond song ‘Mr Kiss-Kiss Bang-Bang’.
Some songs are so identified with one performer that asking anyone else to do them is a bad idea. Willetts’ lovely rendering of ‘Goldfinger’ cannot conceal it is Shirley Bassey’s number.
The second half’s many ballads sound much the same. There is, however, a splendid set – a vast circular shape in which some of Bricusse’s best-known numbers are listed in a spiral, from which spill sheets of music on to the stage.
But when these song titles vanish dreary slides are projected. As a concert for Bricusse devotees the evening is a delight, if over-amplified, but it does his achievements no great service.
The Man: Dave Willetts.
The Woman: Siobhan McCarthy.
The Boy: Niall Sheehy.
The Girl: Julie Atherton.
The Joker: Giles Terera.
Director: Christopher Renshaw.
Designer: Tim Goodchild.
Lighting: Derek Anderson.
Sound: Mike Thacker.
Orchestrator/Vocal, Dance Arranger/Musical Director: Michael England.
Video: Timothy Bird.
Musical Staging: Matthew Cole.
Associate director: Christian Durham.
Assistant musical director: Chris Guard.
Assistant choreographer: Jane McMurtrie.