The Great American Songbook, New End

It’s difficult to go wrong with a concert based on a repertoire founded in Tin Pan Alley and stretching to the golden days of the Hollywood musicals. Unfortunately, the New End’s latest production seems to try its hardest in places.

Performers Ray Caruana, Louisa Parry and Paul Roberts each have a distinctive approach to interpreting the melodic line, but they work better in ensemble than as soloists, which is the predominant setup here. Each performer takes their turn in the spotlight, while their co-stars retire to the wings, creating a patchwork structure to the evening that robs it of much-needed momentum.

Despite an opening speech that emphasises the breadth of composers and the volume of songs encompassed by the Great American Songbook soubriquet, the selections here stick to the safety of the most popular, and populist, standards. Elsewhere, the narrative elements undercut performances – why tell people about the original lyrics to Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and then sing the bowdlerised version? Why emphasise to the audience how Rodgers and Hart changed perceptions of the Broadway musical as the introduction to a Rodgers and Hammerstein number?

The unbridled quality of the four-piece GAS Orchestra helps make up for deficiencies elsewhere, but overall one is left with a feeling of opportunities missed.

_Reviewed for [The Stage](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/25260/the-great-american-songbook)_

New End Theatre, August 11-September 13
Producer: Toby Cruse Productions
Cast: Paul Roberts, Ray Caruana, Louisa Parry
Director: Heather Simpkin
Choreography: Charlotte Wood
Musical direction: Andy Rumble

Author: Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.