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REVIEW: A STAGE KINDLY, Freedom Bar, October 29 2009

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If you've read any of my articles about theatre, you'll probably know by now that I love musicals. I'm delighted when I can support new writing or promote it in any way that I can. Providing, of course, that it's up to scratch, or there's plenty of potential there.

First off, then, I must congratulate Giles Howe and Katy Lipson for their innovation, A Stage Kindly, where new work from around the world is showcased by a professional cast of performers. This show, Bravo, featured musicals from the UK, the US, Australia and the continent, sung by four vocalists (plus Howe and Lipson themselves) and accompanied by a two-piece band.

I greatly enjoyed the vocals of Frank Loman as well as Charlotte Donald, whose acting prowess was finely conveyed in such a limited showcase. I'd seen Adam Bayjou in Rue Magique, but fortunately that hasn't hamstrung him and again his singing was extremely touching.

I was rather disappointed with Arabella Rodrigo, though; her opening song, I Can Sing! from Tales Of Tinseltown, was hampered by poor diction, and a grating trill in her upper register. She wasn't helped, though, by a sound system that kept cutting in and out with varying levels of volume. (Speaking of the sound, the soundcheck apparently over-ran by a good half-hour, meaning that the doors didn't open until 20 minutes after the show was scheduled to begin - not a good way to start.)

The main problem with A Stage Kindly, though, is the repertoire. The showcase-cabarets they produce are essentially vanity productions, with composers paying for inclusion. The quality control that operates isn't quite clear, but I felt rather let-down by most of the first act. Admittedly, the songs may work better as part of the piece of theatre they belong to; Marry Me, from Noel Katz's The Company Of Women, offered the opportunity for acting as well as singing and with clever lyrics and writing was by far the stand-out highlight of the first 45 minutes. It's probably no coincidence that it was a funny, upbeat song squeezed into a session with a lot of lyrical ballads with poetic pretensions and rather portentous introductions. By no means am I arguing that serious subjects can't be dealt with in a musical context; it would just have been nice to hear some contrasting songs of a more finished and performance-worthy standard.  

 


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From This Author Carrie Dunn

Carrie is the UK editor-in-chief for BroadwayWorld. After spending her formative years reading books and ending up with a Masters degree in English literature from (read more...)