BWW Review: AN ANTHONY NEWLEY AND LESLIE BRICUSSE SONGBOOK

Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse are perhaps lesser known than Rodgers and Hammerstein or Webber and Rice, but that makes Theo Ubique's latest entry into their popular summer cabaret series, AN ANTHONY NEWLEY AND LESLIE BRICUSSE SONGBOOK, that much more of a pleasant surprise.

Yes, the pair's iconic songs such as "The Candy Man" and "Goldfinger" are part of the show, but lesser-known gems out-number them. It frees you from coming into things with any pre-conceived concepts or ideas about the material.

With minimal set (some scaffolding, torn curtains and a painted moon), Theo Ubique artistic director Fred Anzevino, along with co-creator Courtney Crouse, have fashioned their own story in which to hang the songbook on.

Granted, that story owes a bit to the writing team's 1964 flop THE ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT -THE SMELL OF THE CROWD (itself had parallels to the non-realistic setting of Beckett's WAITING FOR GODOT, but I digress). Graham Thomas Heacock and David Wesley Mitchell play a pair of vagabonds much like GREASEPAINT's Cocky and Sir, respectively. Heacock's character is enamored with Mitchell's and Mitchell calls the shots. Their roles are spelled out without dialogue, but rather some carefully selected pantomime. They make certain in the show's second number, "Mumbo Jumbo"that we know the scene and setting. The song, about how the elite make dumb decisions with actions that get delegated down through levels of class until the bottom rung is left to clean up the mess, is certain still relevant in the "too big to fail" era of today.

Averis I. Anderson and Ryan Armstrong play fellow down-on-their-luck dreamers. Paige Faye Hauer is the woman who comes between Heacock and Mitchell.

The plot is simple and the cast is exceptionally adept at conveying feeling and meaning with little spoken word.

As is the case in all of Theo Ubique's cabaret shows, every performer is given two or so moments to really shine. Stand out moments include Anderson's soulful rendition of "The Candy Man" and Armstrong's rousing "Gonna Build a Mountain."

Hauer's sultry take on the Bond classic "Goldfinger" as well as her tongue-in-cheek ode to everything Victorian, "Perfectly English" are also super. The latter is a master class on annunciation. Hauer and Mitchell also have a lovely tit for tat in "Fabulous Places" in which a couple argues over just what constitutes a proper get-away.

It's Heacock's performance throughout that is truly the standout, though. Time and time again, Anzevino has shown an ability to discover incredible new talent and with the cherub-faced Heacock, he has done it again. Heacock will make you bust out laughing in one verse and then move you to tears in the next. His performance of the standard "Who Can I Turn To" will break your heart in its honest sincerity. I am most interest to see what Heacock does next as a performer.

William Morey's costume designs are also worth a shout out. In No Exit's intimate setting where the performers are often standing close to you, it nice to see such detail put into costumes.

It all adds up to a wonderful way to spend a summer night. You might not immediately recognize all the tunes, but anyone who has ever fallen in or out of love will recognize the wordless journey of the show.

Theo Ubique's AN ANTHONY NEWLEY AND LESLIE BRICUSSE SONGBOOK runs through July 31 at the No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood. Tickets $29-$34. Call 800.595.4849. www.theo-u.com

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From This Author Misha Davenport

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