Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Review: Just Another Love Story, London Theatre Workshop

“Pardon me, is everybody here? Because if everybody's here, I want to thank you all for coming to the wedding, I'd appreciate your going even more, I mean you must have lots of better things to do, and not a word of this to Paul, remember Paul, you know, the man I'm gonna marry, but I'm not, because I wouldn't ruin anyone as wonderful as he is"

Sondheim revues can feel two a penny – Putting It Together played the St James just a couple of months ago – but Ray Rackham’s Just Another Love Story has a real ace up its sleeve in the return of 2010’s Best Actor in a Musical fosterIAN award winner Sam Harrison to a London stage. His turn in Salad Days was an absolute treasure and being able to hear him sing again was something I couldn’t resist, so I made my way over to Fulham to the London Theatre Workshop above the Eel Brook pub.

The show is a real labour of love for Rackham, having evolved over several incarnations in the past couple of years and now including over 40 Sondheim songs from the widest range of his back catalogue, delving into rarities just as often as his more popular shows. They’ve been carefully stitched together into a free-flowing musical tapestry which includes solos, duets, medleys and even a bit of choreography to bring the music to life, celebrating the music of Stephen Sondheim by creating their own love story from his work. 

It was a real pleasure to hear Harrison again and he didn't disappoint, especially in a first half that featured him heavily. A beautifully light version of West Side Story's 'Something's Coming' set the tone of aspirational love, snippets of 'Johanna' and 'Pretty Women' from Sweeney Todd continued the theme, and teaming up with Marcia Brown for Assassins' 'Unworthy of Your Love' was an inspired choice (even if it always a little odd to hear it sung as a straight love song given its provenance). 

But this is far from a one man show, a company of eight share the load equally and all provide wonderful moments. Anton Tweedale's bitterly hushed 'Losing My Mind' is a triumph, Lowri-Ann Davies impresses hugely in giving her own stamp to the verbal dexterity of both 'The Boy From' and 'Getting Married Today', and Steven Brown and Ellen Verenieks' more experienced take on love in 'We're Gonna Be Alright' offers a more pragmatic note to proceedings.

Altogether it works extremely well. Thomas Lees' musical direction from the piano is all the accompaniment needed as Jonti Angel's cabaret-style design keeps things as simple as they can be. Which all focuses attention squarely on the music, where it should be, and performed like this, it is well worth a trip to Fulham.

Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: £1 
Booking until 24th May



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