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](

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

Sing For Your Supper, Cadogan Hall

Sing For Your Supper

On Wednesday night, Paul and I went to Cadogan Hall to see Sing For Your Supper, a concert celebrating the music of Rodgers and Hart.

It was my first visit to Cadogan Hall, and to be honest I’m surprised at its use as a venue for this sort of event. The former church’s acoustics just don’t work for a small number of voices, even when amplified. I can see how choirs could really make use of the space acoustically, but individual voices or duets felt lost in the cavernous space.

That said, the selection of songs was superb: from the more well-known numbers including Blue Moon, Isn’t It Romantic, My Funny Valentine, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and The Lady Is A Tramp to Thou Swell, What Can You Do With a Man? and There’s a Small Hotel, it was a great showcase for a songwriting partnership that helped define the modern musical.

Of the performers, Maria Friedman was, as one would expect, far and away the most effective, always able to get to the emotional heart of a song and bringing out every nuance. From the emotional complexity of  Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered to the amusing tale of a murderous, many times married vamp in To Keep My Love Alive, the show itself came alive whenever she was given a central role. For my tastes, though, that didn’t happen often enough, and her fellow performers struggled to match. In particular, Simon Green, who helped devise the show and also acts as narrator, struggled at times to hold a tune, while fellow performer Graham Bickley dried on two separate occasions at the start of the second act and never quite recovered.

Those criticisms aside, the musical selections more than compensated for the rough edges. The last concert in this run is on Sunday, and while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend rushing to buy a ticket, searching Amazon or iTunes for some Rodgers and Hart numbers would make for a fruitful weekend.