Saturday 27 April 2024

Tim Rice - My Life In Musicals - Review

G-Live, Guildford


Before writing this review, I have to declare an interest. I am neither personal friend nor relative of Sir Tim Rice and I have only met him briefly, in a professional capacity, on a couple of occasions. However, throughout my 60 odd years Tim Rice’s songs have been part of the soundscape to my life and the lives of my family. From my own youthful encounter with Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat while at school, through the mega hits of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita and then through to my own kids growing up in that whole new world of The Lion King and other Disney animated-features, Rice’s lyrics have been there. And thus it was as much in homage as in artistic interest to sit in a full house in Guildford and enjoy an evening of Tim Rice – My Life In Musicals.

This show was first reviewed early last year when Rice trialled it over a very brief 4-venue tour. This year the itinerary is gruelling – 20 shows in less than a month covering the country from Bradford to Truro, but if the number of venues has been stretched, the quality of the evening remains world class. Rice is perched on a bar-stool onstage throughout, as Duncan Waugh’s 4-piece band and a quartet of West End singers give life to a raft of songs from his life’s discography. When the moment is right, Rice himself steps forward to offer anecdotes linked to the songs and his own remarkable career and collaborations with so many composers. Songs from Joseph get things going, with an unexpected poignancy in the number Close Every Door To Me, which in the show is of course sung by the imprisoned Joseph in Egypt and which today resonates with the 100+ children of Israel (and other nations) currently held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.

As Rice moves on to talk about Superstar (his abbreviation of the show’s title) he explains Andrew Lloyd Webber’s genius in fusing rock music with a more classical musical theatre structure, and the decision of the music publishers for both Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and subsequently Chess, to on all three occasions release the album well in advance of the show. With hindsight, such a strategy speaks volumes for the underlying musical strength of a Broadway or West End show – the melodies and lyrics alone generating huge support and admiration even before one actor has set foot on a stage.  Singers Shonagh Daly and John Addison brought an Evita medley to life, with Madalena Alberto, herself an accomplished Eva Peron in a more recent iteration of the show, offering up a gorgeous Another Suitcase In Another Hall.

Rice wraps up the first half with a briefly moving introduction to Anthem from Chess, suggesting that the song’s lyrics are now more appropriate than ever. Rice clearly has a love from his country, demonstrated if for no other reason than by his commitment to taking this show on the road across virtually the entire land. His intro gave Anthem’s already powerful lyrics, an even stronger punch.

The second act kicked off with Chess’s Someone Else’s Story beautifully sung by Daly, before the impressively guitar-wielding Sandy Grigelis performed a stirring Fight The Fight from From Here To Eternity. The evening also continued with the display of Rice’s EGOT collection (Emmy, Grammy, Tony, Oscar) with the “Oscars” tribute comprising a medley of Evita’s You Must Love Me, segueing into Can You Feel The Love Tonight and then A Whole New World from Aladdin. The two Disney numbers of course have been massive in their reach and to see their writer sat simply on a stage on a stool, in a UK regional venue, tapping his feet to his lyrics being perfectly sung, is quite simply a privilege. 

The 8 gifted singers and musicians on stage are testament to the thousands of individuals, both performers and crew, to whom Rice's creative genius has given employment over the last six decades. Add on the millions worldwide who have been entertained by Rice's talents and it is clear that his global footprint is quite simply remarkable. Rice’s modest and self-effacing presence on stage belies his achievements as the greatest living musical theatre lyricist.

An evening in the company of Sir Tim Rice remains an all time high.

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