Songs from the Shows

MIKE WHEELER enjoys a 'Strictly Musical' evening at Buxton Opera House


With the cast of Gypsy on hand, plus members of the Buxton Festival Young Artists scheme, it was time for another Strictly Musical evening of songs from the shows, an event first staged by the Festival last year, when it first teamed up with the Opera House, for A Little Night Music, and which looks to be taking root as a Buxton Festival tradition - Buxton Opera House, Buxton, UK, 11 July 2022.

With pianist Liam Dunachie, and Paul Kerryson, the Opera House's chief executive, and the director of Gypsy, as relaxed, affable compère, the evening got off to a low-key start, with Christopher Cull in a thoughtful 'Some Enchanted Evening' from South Pacific.

A few of the singers delivered their songs as items in a recital. Most inhabited them, completely in character. Stand-outs in this respect included Sally Pitts' poignant account of 'Hello, Young Lovers', from The King and I, and exuberant 'I Could Have Danced All Night' (My Fair Lady). Rebecca Lisewski gave a storming performance of 'Don't Rain On My Parade' (Funny Girl), Aiesha Naomi Pease brought out the emotional ambiguity of 'As Long As He Needs Me' (Oliver!), while Tiffany Graves is clearly a go-to performer for Kander and Ebb, with a rip-roaring short medley from Cabaret, and a wonderfully knowing 'Me And My Baby' (Chicago), all of which suggested she would also be completely at home in Kurt Weill.

Online publicity for 'Strictly Musical' at Buxton Opera House
Online publicity for Strictly Musical at Buxton Opera House

This being a Paul Kerryson production, there was a sizeable helping of Sondheim (with absolutely no complaints from me). Jennifer Hague and James Rockey waltzed their way round 'A Little Priest' (Sweeney Todd) with just enough of a hint of menace; Sam Ashall was all wide-eyed wonder in 'Giants In The Sky' (Into the Woods), and Liam Dean balanced adroitly on the emotional knife-edge of 'Being Alive' (Company).

Among the numbers from later, less familiar (to me at any rate) shows, Liam Dean tore into 'If I Didn't Believe You' (The Last Five Years - a title completely new to me but, on this evidence, one I shall certainly look out for), Michael Dean-Wilson caught the mixture of frustration and determination in 'The Wall In My Head' (Everybody's Talking About Jamie), and Rebecca Lisewski brought similar qualities to 'Defying Gravity' (Wicked), backed up by spectacular lighting - uncredited but presumably by Jake Wiltshire, who also worked on the Festival's own stage productions.

Some guide to the songs' dramatic contexts would have been welcome, but it was an enjoyable, even exhilarating, occasion, all the same.

Copyright © 2 August 2022 Mike Wheeler,
Derby UK








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