Monday, 26 October 2015

'Hey, Old Friends!' Sondheim at Drury Lane

It's Stephen Sondheim's 85th birthday so the Sondheim Society put together a gala show at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in aid of the charity Silver Line, a telephone helpline for older folks of the silver variety. It was one of those things where you throw together some big names and some littler names and they all put on a show of Sondheim songs. I didn't know a lot of the folks on stage and some of the songs were new to me but it was fun nonetheless.

Various names wandered on and off to introduce the turns with the full orchestra filling the bacl of the stage. We had Julia McKenzie, Millicent Martin, Nicholas Parsons, Anita Dobson and others, all looking very glam.

Anita Harris (who I last saw singing an X-Ray Spex song at Polyfest a couple of years ago) did a song as did Rula Lenska (who will always be a star from 'Rock Follies' to me) along with some dancers jigging around her. Rula still has all that hair and her voice has become more smokey and reminded me a bit of Marianne Faithfull. Millicent Martin did a song and so did Daniel Evans (who I've seen in productions in London and Broadway). There were some lovely voices and some voices that have seen better days but it's good that they still get up there to belt out a song.

Special praise goes out to Bonnie Langford who, in a sparkly almost-nothing costume, danced and sang and didn't get out of breath even when picked up and twirled around by Anton Du Beke. She high kicked 180 degrees and did the splits on stage and got a huge ovation for the non-stop singing and dancing spectacular. Well done Bonnie!

At the end of the first half Ester Rantzen came on to explain what Silver Line was and to tell us the phone number (0800 4708090). At the start of the second half there was a spoken message from Sondheim who's sounding in good health and said he's working on a new show.

My favourite performances were from Lorna Dallas, Haydn Gwynne and Michael Xavier. Lorna sang a touching version of 'In Buddy's Eyes' from 'Follies', a tender love song by a mature person looking back. I've not heard of Lorna before so there's a name I will need to look out for again. Haydn did a lovely version of 'Send In The Clowns' singing to Daniel Evans, gentle and strong by turns. I last saw Haydn in 'Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown', the musical of the Almodovar film. She has a good voice and should do more singing.

The final performance was Michael Xavier's take on 'Being Alive' that kept in the dialogue from the show to help give it context and he was superb. It was a masterclass in how to deliver a song, building and building, with him moving slightly forward on the stage with each verse and that big 'ta-daa' ending having taken the audience along with him. Now, that's skill. I saw him in 'The Pyjama Game' a year or two back but I'll always think of him as the Prince in 'Into The Woods' singing 'Agony' and trying to out-agonise the other prince. He was also the Wolf, of course.

It was a very fun evening and it'll be interesting to see if any of the performances turn up on YouTube. One message I'll take away from this show, though, is to never book tickets in the vertiginous balcony of Drury Lane - never again!

Photos courtesy of Broadway where you can find more.

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