I’ve always been a fan of the musical revue (the greatest in my opinion being Sondheim’s Side by Side) so what better production to reopen the tiny Waterloo East Theatre on my first visit there?
Like the Sondheim show, there are three people on stage: Wicked‘s Nikki Bentley, the versatile Gina Murray, and Noel Sullivan (who those of a certain age may recall was part of the Popstars band Hear’Say, but more recently leading shows like Priscilla).
Together with musical director Inga Davis-Rutter, who plays her piano-keyboard like lightning and deserves her own bout of applause, this talented trio bring the various songs of Richard Maltby Jr and David Shire to life.
We’re taking about love here in Starting Here, Starting Now. The thrill of it, the romance and ridiculous of it, the crushing disappointment of it.
Some of the tunes are from musicals which made it through to production, others are from works which never took off.
On a simple stage, with three portals framed by curtains, Bentley, Murray and Sullivan emerge to sing their solos, duets and trios and keep us amply entertained. Director Gerald Armin gives this revue, now over forty years old, the necessary pizazz and sparkle, and his cast rise to it.
Highlights which come to mind are the vocally-demanding “Crossword Puzzle” (Murray); the break-up ditty of “I Don’t Remember Christmas” (Sullivan); the lyrically-cluttered and driving musical beat of “Travel” (a showcase for the whole quartet); the bitchy “I Don’t Believe It” (all three channelling the ‘perfect relationship’); and the 1930s throwback of “One Step” (again for the trio).
Through twenty-five numbers, pulling together some kind of a storyline but needing no dialogue to speak of, these three artists bring a potent enthusiasm for being back on a stage together with a clear interpretation of some complex lyrics.
Maltby and Shire’s work here is largely plot- and character-led, with melodies that keep your toes tapping. You may even be tempted to dance within your soul. There is nothing better than being with others watching performers giving their best.
Shire, a film composer at heart, has an ear for the big production number as well as the quieter reflective solo, and both are showcased well here. Maltby, as well as his fifty-plus year collaboration with Shire, was co-lyricist for Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance and for Schönberg’s Miss Saigon.
This is a show which is loud, playful, over the top, and an utter joy to watch. Highly recommended.
Starting Here, Starting Now runs at the Waterloo East Theatre until 18 July – book your ticket here.
LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to review Starting Here, Starting Now.