EIF: A Grand Night For Singing
Edinburgh Academy Junior School
If you are a person who likes concerts of show tunes, you would likely know the singers onstage at this Festival venture into that sphere, the addition of Glyndebourne-domiciled Australian opera star Danielle de Niese apart. However, only the most devoted aficionados of the catalogue of songs by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II would be familiar with the repertoire they performed.
This UK incarnation, by pianist and MD Wayne Marshall and singer Kim Criswell, of a review premiered in New York almost three decades ago, has its own narrative, linking familiar songs from Carousel, Oklahoma!, The King and I and The Sound of Music with comparative rarities from Allegro, Me and Juliet, Pipe Dream and Cinderella. This cast – Criswell and de Niese joined by Anna-Jane Casey, Damian Humbley and Richard Morrison – more or less ignored that, however, referring to one another by their own names rather than those of the characters listed in the programme, and introducing asides to excuse non-PC lyrics and reference online dating apps and social distancing.
What’s left of Walter Bobbie’s original show, and indeed the musical arrangements of Fred Wells and “orchestration” by Michael Gibson and Jonathan Tunick, is anybody’s guess. Marshall directed a sextet of bass, cello, drums, percussion, harp and a flute and reedsman, and three of them had a fair amount of down-time, ensemble instrumental passages less memorable than the piano trio and sax for South Pacific’s I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair, with all three women applying the shampoo.
There were some great solo turns too. De Neise brought her dazzle to Cinderella’s Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful? in the first half and Something Wonderful, from The King and I, later on, Humbley made something rather different of The Sound of Music’s Maria, and Casey did the splits and high-kicked through the song of theatrical transformation that is It’s Me (from Me and Juliet).
It was the inclusion of numbers like that, the four from 1947’s Allegro, and five from the Julie Andrews TV vehicle Cinderella of a decade later, that make this a worthwhile journey of discovery for all fans of musical theatre.