THE GREAT JEWISH AMERICAN SONGBOOK
written by Chris Burgess
Upstairs at the Gatehouse, to 28 Feb
Highgate Village, London N6 4BD to 28 February 2016.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Sun 4pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
And at the Radlett Centre, Aldenham Avenue, Radlett WD7 8HL. Sun 6 March 4pm and 7.30pm.
TICKETS: 020 8340 3488.
Review: William Russell 14 February.
Melodies galore splendidly sung.
The contribution of Jewish composers to the American popular song is inestimable and this spritely, well staged revue really only skims the surface. But to do the composers justice would probably mean a show lasting all day and beyond.
In the event Chris Burgess, who wrote the script, has concentrated on Kern, Rogers and Hart, Rogers and Hammerstein, Berlin and Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, the last two probably winning out over other names missing because their shows included that most Jewish musical of all – Fiddler on the Roof.
The songs selected are mostly familiar, although there are some rarities including a splendidly irreverent one from Fiddler called When Messiah Comes dropped as being too risqué at the time. Today it does not raise a hackle.
The script, which is important for this kind of anthology show, is informative – if it is not there is no point in the venture – and the cast of four perform their material impeccably.
Jennifer Harding is nicely raunchy, Jessie May has a soaring soprano and a cheeky grin, Lee Ormsby is the sonorous “heavy” and Grant McConvey does the dashing young man numbers, flirting with he audience the while, stylishly. There is also a terrific trio to back them up.
It is as pleasant a way of passing the time as one can imagine. Lovers of musicals may learn a thing or two about the men who wrote the lyrics and composed the songs. The emphasis is on show songs, but their output was prodigious and many were just written for the hit parades of the day.
Director: Matthew Gould
Musical Director: Neil MacDonald.
Musical Arranger: Andy Collyer.
Lighting Designer: Martin McLachlan.
Sound Operator: Charles Parry.