When I first fell in love with musicals it is fair to say one of the major influences was the music of songwriter Leslie Bricusse.
Many of the films he wrote the songs for were firm favourites of mine, ‘Goodbye Mr Chips’, ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘Dr Doolittle’, and as my LP collection grew I actively bought albums featuring his songs. I knew all about his contribution to Bond themes, I even knew he had written My Old Man’s A Dustman. One of my prize collectables was an LP of a little known Bricusse musical called ‘Beyond the Rainbow’ (of which I learnt all the words). You could say I was a fan.
To my chagrin I had never seen any of his musicals performed live but last night’s joyous visit to the St. James Theatre to see a 2 hour show showcasing his works entitled ‘Pure Imagination’ went some way to resolving that.
Leslie Bricusse himself attended the opening night last night together with a star-studded audience which included many of his friends and colleagues, Joan Collins, Petula Clark, Nanette Newman, and Gloria Hunniford to name just a few.
The set was simple but beautifully effective, with the 6 piece band and a grand piano to one side, dozens of pages of sheet music cascade from the piano, up across a screen which subtly projected backdrops, circling the stage and ending with Bricusse’s signature on the floor, stylishly chic.
Musical Theatre star Dave Willetts has always been a favourite of mine since his days in Les Miserables. Willetts’ voice has lost none of its timbre over the years. His ballards with Siobhan McCarthy were beautifully sung, the witty touches he slipped in when he sang ‘Goldfinger’ were sensational and if any producers were watching….now might be the time to adapt Dr. Doolittle for the stage, we have found a perfect leading man.
The talent didn’t stop there. Siobhan McCarthy playing ‘The Woman’ also showed incredible versatility, one minute holding the audience in the palm of her hand, the next singing and dancing with sass in ‘Le Jazz Hot’ from the film Victor/Victoria. This particularly delighted me because I didn’t know that Bricusse wrote that too!
Julie Atherton and Niall Sheehy played ‘The Girl’ and ‘The Boy’ respectively. Often paired together for lovely duets they charmed their way into the audience’s hearts but it was when they teamed up with the final character ‘The Joker’ was portrayed by Giles Terera that is was the most fun to watch. A trio of joy.
Giles Terera certainly knew how to work an audience. What a treat! This guy can sing, dance and is genuinely funny. I shall definitely be watching out for news of him in the future.
Clever mash-ups, fabulous Cockney comedy numbers, close harmonies, and charming solos . It was great to hear some well known favourite songs mixed in with lesser known gems and even works in progress. Altogether they sang 51 songs and for me that wasn’t enough, many of my favourite song in Bricusse’s extensive catalogue didn’t make the cut and I would have loved to have heard more – may I request a sequel?
For fans of Bricusse’s work this show is a must see, for those who are not familiar with his work, get yourselves over to the St James Theatre and listen to some damn fine tunes sung by damn fine voices.
Reviewer: Sammi O’Neill
Production Photos : Annabel Vere
Press Night Photos : Milly Smith, The Umbrella Rooms