17 January 2014

Putting It Together at the St James Theatre


Going to events with friends means that sometimes I get to go to things that I would not normally have chosen. Things like an evening of Sondheim songs.

This was also my first visit to St James Theatre in Victoria.

I have worked in an office block just 100m or so away so I knew the area quite well. That meant that I knew that there was a pub next door, but what I did not know, or anticipate, was just how busy or how loud it would be just after work on a Friday evening. I took about three steps inside before giving the pub up as a bad idea.

Luckily St James also has a bar and I got there just in time to claim one of the last seats. The beer came out of a bottle and was very expensive but that was OK and so was the food (Welsh Rarebit). I was perfectly happy to have a seat, a beer I liked and some food that I could eat.

Inside St James Theatre reminded me very much of Trafalgar Studios that I had been to just a couple of weeks previously with its rows of steeply sloped and high-backed red seats.

Our seats were somewhere near the middle of Row J and I took this picture from there as the audience filed in.

I had even fewer expectations of this show that I usually have. I had heard of Sondheim but that was about it.

The show was a collection of Sondheim songs (obviously I had no idea where they were from) that were used in the first half to tell a story. Two couples and another man were at a cocktail party and that was a good excuse for lots of songs about love, jealously and breaking up. The songs while unfamiliar were pleasant enough and they that they were brought together was very effective.

There was a short interval during which I managed to avoid eating any ice cream.

The second half was slightly different with more group singing from all five. There was a little dancing too. It was all rather jolly.

The singing was pretty good overall though I do not like singers who are amplified, as these all were. I am used to opera where singers can easily fill much larger halls without any aid. Amplification also flattens the sound, that is why we can tell it is amplified.

I did not know any of the cast but I got the impression that Jackie Dee was meant to be star and she was. She had the best voice and also had the most stage presence.

The small, and surprisingly young, orchestra did a good job too.

I would not go as far as to say that I am converted to Sondheim, or to musical reviews as a format, but this was a pleasant enough evening. I am glad that I went.

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