Malcolm Gordon bills his program "A Light, Bright Fun-Filled Evening," and it would be churlish to gainsay him. For audiences with our without a knowledge of the English music-hall era, this program lived up to its billing.
The adjectives dissipated, droll, genial, raffish, doleful, and vengeful came to mind at various points in the evening to describe Gordon's various personas, matched to appropriate numbers. For example, "I'm Henery the Eighth I Am," made famous by Herman's Hermits, originated as a song about the sad-sack successor of seven unfortunate husbands of a widow -- unfortunate enough that the undertaker is willing to give her a discount on her last husband if she makes a deposit for her new one. Other songs were "Champagne Charlie," with Gordon decked out in white waistcoat, silk scarf, and top hat; "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo"; "Burlington Bertie from Bowe"; and a medley of songs about the seaside, including "Who's Your Lady Friend" (about a former man-about-town taking his new wife to the beach), and "I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside." He interleaved songs with spoken patter and poems, such as "My Mother Doesn't Know I'm on the Stage" and two parts of the "Albert and the Lion" tetralogy, about a poor lad who has an unfortunate encounter with a denizen of the Blackpool Zoo.
Gordon used a variety of jackets and hats to represent different classes and eras of Londoners, from 1820 to 1960. Songs ranged from the music hall to street songs, often sung by costermongers, or peddlers; Cockney songs (not all Londoners are Cockney); and pub songs. He showed off a resonant voice, versatile manner, and expressive features, as well as equal comfort in "toff" (upper-class), Cockney, or Midlands dialect (not to mention American). Music director Stephen Phebus covered costume changes smoothly, and the pauses didn't drag. The only set to speak of was a group of English posters hung from the black curtains upstage.
This was a pleasant, informative, and entertaining trip down an infrequently traveled memory lane.
Musical Directing: 2
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Copyright 2002 John Chatterton