Monday, 4 November 2013

The Jewish Legacy

The Radlett Centre


Directed by Leon Trayman

For two performances only, The Jewish Legacy came to leafy Radlett.  Devised by Katy Lipson’s Aria Entertainments and selecting only showtunes with a kosher provenance, Aria with Leon Trayman have found themselves spoilt for choice. Like a box of familiar chocolates, (soft-centred probably, judging by the age profile of the matinee audience) their compilation was a selection of Broadway favourites taken from the canon of the last 80 years or so.

Simply staged, four singers narrated and performed a programme that opened with Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin and ended amongst the work of current Broadway talent Jason Robert Brown. Kimberley Blake and Abi Finley provided the soprano voices, Blake having two particular second half highlights. Her Adelaide's Lament from Loesser's Guys and Dolls got the comedy-pathos of the song spot on whilst Send In The Clowns from Sondheim's A Little Night Music was a beautifully noble take on a notoriously challenging number. Finley's poise was as elegant. Having given a stunning contribution to the Kander and Ebb and Disney show medleys, her bang up to date Taylor The Latte Boy from Goldrich and Heisler was a story sweetly told through song.

Tom Millen and Trayman himself were perhaps slightly overshadowed by their leading ladies. Even so, Millen's take on On The Street Where You Live gave a genuine sense of the towering romantic desperation that Lerner and Loewe imbued within the song, whilst Trayman took it upon himself to sing Brown's (mildly autobiographical) Shiksa Goddess, a song that song bluntly and brilliantly tells of its Jewish author's grappling with his guilty conscience as as he falls for the charms of a gentile girl. 'Shiksa' is an extremely vulgar term of Yiddish slang, usually lost on a non-Jewish audience. In Radlett and to predominantly Jewish pensioners, Trayman's solid performance generated as many disapproving tuts from the old folk as it did shocked chuckles. Its a clever song but perhaps too offensive for the show's likely audience. Maybe stick to The Old Red Hills Of Home in future?

The Hebrew legacy left on The Great White Way is huge and to the producers' credit they've plugged their set full of comfortable classics with a liberal serving of Streisand and Fiddler thrown in too. Matt Rampling on piano directed his three piece band skilfully though the show would have been better served with a slightly larger musical ensemble and a compere more at ease with the show's (well researched) patter than the singers who occasionally sounded too scripted.

Demanding to be re-staged, the show is an imaginative and innovative arrangement of much loved tunes that offers a grand night out at the theatre. Both acts ended with big numbers from Bernstein and Sondheim’s West Side Story, Tonight and Somewhere respectively. These two famous songs (a duo and a solo) have each been cleverly re-arranged for four voices and the quartet delivered them with soaring harmonies. It’s a cunning move by the producers, ensuring that when the curtain falls the audience leaves grinning and with a tune on their lips.

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