Thursday, 24 June 2010

Starting Here, Starting Now ****

Starting Here, Starting Now
Music by David Shire, Lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr., by Manila Street Productions
Black Box, Arts Centre, June 24 to July 4, 2010
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Starting Here, Starting Now is a delicious musical revue written by David Shire and Richard Maltby Jr. in 1976. In this updated production, West End director, Andrew MacBean, casts four, versatile, Australian performers (Anita Louise Combe, Martin Crewes, Simon Gleeson, Christie Whelan).

All four boast impressive credentials on both London and Australia musical theatre stages.

The staging is deceptively simple, with four old theatre chairs, a couple of stools, a red velvet drape as a backdrop and, lurking at stage left, a grand piano played by musical director, Simon Holt.

The 26 songs – both group and solo numbers – are threaded together into an intelligent, comical and often poignant commentary about modern relationships. MacBean’s direction is seamless and clever and the four voices blend immaculately in harmonies. Each of Maltby and Shire’s songs has its own unfolding narrative, a dynamic range, and an emotional urgency that create a dramatic arc within each song.

Combe’s voice is expressive and impressive, shifting with ease from pure, classical tones to raunchier styles and transforming from sweetness to sadness or quirkiness. Whelan is a striking presence with a bright, musical theatre vocal quality and a capacity for sassy, cheeky characters. Gleeson has charm, warm vocal tones and a grin that lights up the stage. Crewe has a strong voice and presence, sells a song beautifully and dances with pizzazz.

The songs deal with lovers who range from desperate (I’m A Little Bit Off), to romantic (Just Across the River), lonely (Watching the Parade Go By), angry (I Don’t Remember Christmas) and cheerful (Pleased With Myself). This show is a rocket with catchy tunes, smart lyrics, exciting performances and slick direction.

By Kate Herbert

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