Conceived and directed by Fred Anzevino and Courtney Crouse
Music director/arranger/pianist Jeremy Ramey
Choregrapher: Meggie Portman
At No Exit Cafe, Chicago
Wonderfully sung and smartly conceived very British revue is a summer treat.
The British invasion of American pop culture didn’t start with The Beatles, but rather with Anthonly Newley and Leslie Bricusse, who landed on Broadway with two shows: the hit Stop The World, I Want to Get Off (1962) and flop The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd (1964). Containing a fine pastiche of British music hall tunes with power ballads and wonderful marches and anthems, Newley and Brisusse were accomplished tunesmiths who created a nicely varied songbook ripe for a musical revue. Fred Anzevino and Courtney Crouse have taken their revues up on step from merely having a cast sing a songbook to utilizing a theme or motif giving the songs a framework to live in. Here, the four men and one woman are dressed as early 20th Century British music hall entertainers suggesting vagabounds out of Waiting For Godot or from the non-realistic characters in The Roar of the Greasepaint.
Actually, this revue is anchored by two fellows: Cocky (boyish Graham Thomas Heacock) and Sir (talented David Wesley Mitchell). Heacock’s Cocky is smitten by Mitchell’s Sir, who is the dominant one. The skilled use of pantomime supplements the appropriate songs, giving the piece more than a revue feel. We see the relationship of the characters through song such as “Where Would You be Without Me?,” “This Dream,” and “Look At That Face” among others.
Paige Faye Hauser nails her beautifully articulated tune “Perfectly English” and she is wonderful with “Goldfinger” (from the James Bond film) as well as a strong version of “Once in a Lifetime.” Averis I. Anderson is terrific in “The Candyman,” while Ryan Armstrong sings a spirited “Gonna Build a Mountain.”
This cast creates a spell both with their acting/singing skill making this 80 minute show into a polished art piece that Beckett would enjoy as well as Newley and Brisusse. An Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse Songbook is a most entertaining revue with energetic singers covering a sophisticated songbook of almost forgotten composers. This review is a showcase for a fresh, youthful, and amazingly talented newbie – Graham Thomas Heacock. His infectious smile with is golden tenor and his acting adds to his ability to sing in a pure cockney accent makes his professional debut most impressive. Casting directors need to see all the Theo Ubique productions to witness new talents like Heacock, Mitchell, Armstrong, Anderson, and Hauser. This review will introduce folks to the genius of Newley and Bricusse. Art and entertainment combine to be a fine summer treat.
At No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood, Chicago, IL, call 800-595-4849, https://theo-u.com, tickets $29 -$34, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Friday & Saturday at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 80 minutes without intermission, through July 31, 2016