A Lot of Living

Friday, 8 August, 1997

A LOT OF LIVING is a compilation show of the songs of Charles Strouse which was produced previously off-broadway. Maybe only those with a reasonable knowledge of musicals will know much of the work of Charles Strouse....ANNIE and BYE BYE BIRDIE (from which the title song is from) are probably two of his better known shows, but he has written many more, some not seen over here, as the 51...yes 51! songs in the show prove. Clearly, with so many songs to get through you are not going to hear all of them in their entirety, which is where I feel the show lost out. Far too often the cast got into a number when wham...it was cut into another number. It left me wanting more which some would say is a good thing, but in this context it didn't fully work for me. There are some terrifically gutsy, "broadway in the '70s" style numbers (particularly those from Applause) and the cast of four were excellent.

I was on the front row and perhaps this is a little close for such an intimate venue...it felt as if the cast were in your front room I thought BONNIE LANGFORD was going to pop across and offer me tea and a garibaldi at any moment. She gave a really lively performance, almost slicing her ear off with high kicks...again, being so close that bit brought me out in a cold sweat! She still has that belter of a voice heard to full effect in WELL I'M NOT from Bye Bye Birdie and a nicely directed snippet of TOMORROW from Annie. Perhaps too many winks at the audience as she exited the stage but I can live with that.

BONNIE LANGFORD'S co-star was DAVE WILLETS...very well known in the West End and nice to see doing a fringe production. I felt he never really let rip...he has a powerful voice, maybe too powerful for such a tiny venue....(on this subject I write last week about ASSASSINS and how good to hear un-miked voices....well this show actually did use them and credit to Jonathan Mellor for their subtle and very effective use).......He was particularly moving in ONCE UPON A TIME from All American and did an unusual duet with a mouse in the title song from Charlie & Algernon (again, the front row may be more than some people can handle for that particular number).

Joanna John and Chris Coleman (two actors I'd not seen before, or rather not perhaps noticed before) made up the team which is a very unfair comment because in no way did Bonnie and Dave star in this show, in fact Joanna had some superb numbers (ANOTHER LIFE from Dance a Little Closer) and Chris did a very energetic comic dance routine I CAN'T STOP DANCING from the show of the same name, no mean feat on a stage that you can't even swing a kitten in!

A good night for hearing songs from musicals that have not been performed over here and hearing them very well sung with an excellent band of three. It sometimes lacked the threads needed to hold together some of the song sequences and I felt it needed more wit in the lyrics....but perhaps that is with having just had a deluge of Sondheim in the past fortnight. Go and see it.....

(Steve Taylor)

Looking for the best seats...