Sunday 26th February 2012
It never seems easy getting to see Howard Goodall’s musicals (or getting hold of his CDs – it can be done via a cheque in the post though). Given a CBE last year for services to music education, and acclaimed as a composer of choral music and TV and film scores, his gifts as a composer of musicals seems to remain stubbornly under-recognised, despite a West End run for Love Story last year, and a production of The Kissing Dance at the Jermyn Street theatre, both of which we thoroughly enjoyed. So it was with great pleasure that we made the journey to Ye Olde Rose and Crown theatre in Walthamstow to see All Star Productions perform their latest musical revue, ‘Love and War’, which promised to give us a selection of the greatest Goodall ‘hits’.
We were treated to songs taken from no fewer than eight different musicals from Goodall’s back catalogue, performed by a company of four. Perhaps sensibly, Aaron Clingham and Lydia Milman Schmidt have opted for a fairly simple story to give us a sense of forward movement – two couples finding and losing love, the men going off to war and describing their experiences there, with the women left behind.
An all-purpose rock fills the middle of the stage, whilst the edges serve as interior spaces for the more domestic scenes. A less naturalistic approach might have worked better, since it is difficult to make an exterior scene convincing in such a limited space (and presumably with a limited budget). However, this is a small gripe in a show which gives Howard Goodall’s songs an excellent showcase.
Beginning with an ensemble version of Days of Hope’ (click here for a sample), which becomes the theme-song of the piece, we then have some more lighthearted and romantic songs, culminating in a wedding scene which makes use of songs from Love Story, followed by the ‘pasta’ song, which in the original production featured a full real-time creation of a pasta dinner. Although this production had a slightly more low-tech version, they did convey the energy and humour of the song brilliantly. In the second half, the story develops as the ‘characters’ seem to grow up and have to cope with the trials and challenges of life, and we witness the differing fates of the two couples.
Terrie-May McNulty, Jennifer Redston, Steven Sparling and Michael Stacey all had their high points, although if we had to name a favourite it would have to be McNulty who seemed to have an emotional range and a stage presence which really drew us in. Michael Stacey delivered a moving rendition of ‘Nocturns’, and Jennifer Redston and Steven Sparling’s duet of ‘Everything we know’, giving a new twist to the version from ‘Love Story’, was beautifully delivered. What really came through for us in this revue was the power of Howard Goodall’s music and the commitment and energy of the performers. By the end of our 90 minutes in the theatre we felt genuinely moved, quite a feat given the songs were out of context and the characters only sketchily defined.
For anyone wanting to get to know Howard Goodall’s music better, ‘Love and War’ provides an excellent opportunity. For us it was a chance for an all too rare Goodall fix. It looks as though our next opportunity will be a brief outing of ‘The Dreaming’ by the National Youth Music Theatre at the Rose Theatre Kingston in July.