BWW Reviews: ALL THE FUN OF THE FAIR at New Wimbledon Theatre - Good, Old Fashioned Fun


David Essex! I mean, THE David Essex! Still twinkly of eye, exuding easy charm and, if the murmurs around me were anything to go by, still breaking the hearts of fifty-something teenyboppers, the star of the show has lost little of the presence that was always his trump card. His singing was never going to rival Ethel Merman in belt and, with age, it's mellowed into a kind of cockney Andy Williams - easy on the ear, if not exactly memorable. Very handsome and trim in his mid-sixties, he has eschewed nips and tucks and looks very at ease with what little grey hair he has left. Plenty of twenty-something blokes wanted to look like David Essex in the 70s and plenty of sixty-something blokes want to look like him now - this forty-something bloke wouldn't mind either!

All the Fun of the Fair isn't quite The David Essex Show, as there are plenty of strong performances working round him, especially from Louise English as the fortune-teller who can see everyone's future but her own, Tim Newman as the orphan who has found a home amongst the travelling carnies and Tanya Robb as femme fatale Alice. One does feel a little for the cast, as they have to contend not only with the Essex megastar status, but with a plot that's predictable even for musical theatre and characters whose one-dimensionality wouldn't challenge Jason Statham's acting prowess.

But never mind all that, the songs are fabulous - not just the old favourites like A Winter's Tale, Rock On and Gonna Make You A Star, but original songs for the show like He Noticed Me and Father and Son credited to Essex as songwriter. Compared to shows simply bolted around an act's back catalogue (like "Never Forget" the Take That musical) this production has a clear understanding of the theatrical elements of show songs - as one would expect from Essex whose roots are on stage as much as in the recording studio.

All the Fun of the Fair is not too challenging - after all, it's David Essex not Peter Gabriel who is the inspiration for the show - but it's a good, old-fashioned musical with more than a touch of er... stardust scattered about the stage.         

All the Fun of the Fair is at New Wimbledon Theatre until November 19 and on tour

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From This Author Gary Naylor

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