BWW Reviews: BACHARACH: OF LIFE AND LOVESONG, St James Theatre Studio, January 19 2013
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by Gary Naylor
Sometimes the role of the reviewer can seem superfluous - I could simply type phrases like "The Look of Love" and "Anyone who had a Heart" and "Say a Little Prayer", and the job is done. Burt Bacharach's songs are in the playlist of the 20th Century, songs so strong that they survived even Cilla Black's vocals, songs that speak of love sought and love lost, songs that we seem to be born knowing. It's as strong a body of work as any in the Great American Songbook and what an absolute joy it was to hear them on a snowy night in recession-hit London.
Complementing the material perfectly was the beautifully appointed St James Theatre, a newish addition to London's unbelievably varied range of venues. With a bar / restaurant and main auditorium upstairs, you need to go below ground to an intimate studio space that seats about 80, I would guess, a room with a real Vegas feel to it, perfect for a weekend treat.
And the Vegas feel rolled over into the show. With Terence Penk's musical ensemble playing at just the right volume - and how few venues get that right - some of London's leading lights of musical theatre took it in turns to set down their glass of wine on their table and step up to the mic to sing. It would be iniquitous to single out any one of such talented performers for special praise, but I will anyway! Stephanie Fearon's fragile vocals were even more impressive those of her four compadres: Sandra Marvin; Edward Baruwa; Alana Maria; and Ross William Wild. And she had to be very, very good indeed to outshine that quartet!
There's a different flavour to the cabarets for each night of the week at St James Theatre Studio and, with shows like this attracting a full house on a night when it was much, much easier to crawl under a warm duvet, I expect tickets will sell like the hot cakes I needed when I levered my frozen form off the motorcycle once home. And if Bacharach: Of Life and Lovesong returns any time soon, it's worth standing in the snow to secure a ticket. I may still not know the way to San Jose, but I know the way to St James and I'll be back there soon.