Jim Dale is a performer who can do it all. His extensive career has taken in music hall, film, television, stand up, pop music and musical theatre - a certified 'jack of all trades'. His one man show, which sees him return to his roots at the Vaudeville Theatre, is an entertaining reflective on this career jam packed with anecdotes, jokes and songs that paint a picture of a type of celebrity that sadly no longer exists.
His appeal plays largely to older audience member who remember his successes in the pop charts with songs such as "Dick-a-Dum-Dum" and "Georgy Girl". Fans of the 'Carry On' series will enjoy hearing stories from the set, and there are touching moments thrown in from his work in plays such as 'Joe Egg' and 'Scapino'.
I must confess my only knowledge of him was from the original cast recording of CY Coleman's 'Barnum' - the role which he created on Broadway opposite Glenn Close, which saw him walk the tightrope eight nights a week across the proscenium of the St James Theatre. As you'd expect, the show is well represented, with wonderful performances of 'There's a Sucker Born Ev'ry Minute', 'The Museum Song' and of course 'The Colours of My Life' which is softly dedicated to his wife.
Dale's energy is infectious from start to finish, and his mix of music hall humour with real stories of his accidental career paint a rich picture of someone who has touched almost every area of show business. During press night the audience was full of old friends and colleagues, many of whom were referenced throughout the show, adding to the warm and nostalgic atmosphere.
Set against a simple music hall backdrop with just an onstage piano, Dale fills the stage with an incredibly physical and virile performance that keeps the audience in the palm of his hands. His pianist and arranger Mark York acts as a necessary comfort blanket, providing touching arrangements underscoring the non-linear reflection.
This type of show appeals directly to fans of the subject rather than the regular theatregoer, and those coming to it as a fan of Dale will not walk away disappointed. The tone is deliberately relaxed and informal, making the mix of song, dance, drama and comedy seem wholly natural and free flowing - much like Dale's career.
"Yet even his most avowed fan would admit the material here is stretched pretty thin. There’s precious little insight into the showbiz industry or even Dale himself. Still, the patter comes easy, the gags even easier. If you love Jim Dale, there’s a fair bet you’ll love this."
Claire Allfree for The Telegraph
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