Showtune is a musical celebration of works by the great composer and lyricist, Jerry Herman. Revered for his outstanding musical scores, throughout his life Herman has received 10 Tony Awards, recognition for the longest running musical with ‘Hello Dolly’ and is commemorated with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, writes Carolyn Hart Taylor.
Directed and staged by Luke Byrne, Showtune walks you through the four seasons of life, each stage a canvas upon which is painted life’s hopes, hurdles and heartaches.
A dramatic opening with ‘It’s Today’ and ‘Big Time’, roots us firmly in the land of greasepaint and glitter as hits are sung out to an audience privy to a Broadway dressing room, complete with theatreland razzamatazz strewn about the place.
Amongst the themes, a young cast of performers give hope after bad news with, ‘We Need a Little Christmas’, which is playfully followed by, ‘A Little More Mascara’, sung by James Molyneux, who, determined to banish sadness, expresses his identity through cabaret, declaring, ‘ I’ll strap on my fake boobs again’.
Songs flow seamlessly along, each one stitched onto the next so there is no spoken dialogue, just music and lyrics. A narrative is created through tunes that reveal a story as they are sung and acted out.
A clear message is sent when a battle of the sexes plays out with the men singing, ‘It Takes a Woman’, to which the women defiantly respond with ’Wherever He Ain’t’, while stressing, ‘She’s no meek little lamb’. The themes are as relevant now, but despite issues of gender, sexuality and age this is a show that unveils a world where innocent optimism was played out on stage, starkly conflicting with reality and to what greets us in modern life, therefore ageing the production to a period of time when ‘the show must go on’.
The songs and dance were performed by an accomplished cast, some obviously classically trained, with Alex Burns standing out as one. Defending her place on the boardwalks from younger, ageist stars keen to replace her, she conveys her vulnerability, singing beautifully.
A must for those, keen on nostalgia and the pure joy of song.
Unton Theatre, Old Union Arches, 229 Union Street, London, SE1 0LR until 24th August 2019. Times: Tuesday – Saturday Evenings 7:30pm; Saturday & Sunday Afternoon 2:30pm. Admission: £22, £20. Phone: 020 7261 9876
Photos: Jamie Scott-Smith.