Friday, 20 April 2018

Tuxedo Junction Train gets audience involved

If the Tuxedo Junction Train is calling at The Watermill again next year I'd like to book my ticket now. It's just great!

Tuxedo Junction
Watermill Theatre, Bagnor
April 2

If the Tuxedo Junction Train is calling at The Watermill again next year I'd like to book my ticket now. It's just great!

No matter that all five of its multi-talented cast have West End pedigree to make other musicians weep. This concert dressed up as a narrative is a loving tribute to the 1940s swing era using just piano, guitar, double bass, trumpet and whatever else falls to hand includng ukes, a banjo and notably clarinet for the quintet of singers.

Perhaps it's not as polished as a recording or TV session, but live performance is a different game, it relies upon the audience to be part of the show and the performers clearly fed off our enthusiasm.

This was the greatest, most developed time for jazz/pop. It gave us the likes of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Django Reinhardt, Glen Miller, Hoagie Carmichael...and so on, and on. The tunes were terrific, the lyrics inventive and the performances passionate; what more could you ask for?

Most of all it's a vehicle for the man who devised it, Simon Slater, a class musician, singer and very funny man. The plot, if you can call it that, doesn't stand any scrutiny at all: four famous characters and a ticket collector are on a board a 1945 train out of Chicago. A stream of wonderful songs is used to fill in the place of a narrative either based on trains or destinations - and this is the weirdest route ever created.

Never mind Route 66, this one winds from Chicago to LA via New York, Georgia, Texas, Kalamazoo - where it stops for a long humour break - and finally Pasadena. What a musical journey, though - we also take a quick hop across the Atlantic to visit Berkeley Square - it's obviously a magic train.

This was a live show and the singing was very occasionally out of tune, sometimes voices were tired and not every harmony blended as it might. And the drumkit was underused largely because only guitarist Julian Littman seemed to be at home with it.

But a live audience scarcely cares about that sort of thing. Hats off to five performers who played, sang and acted through this nostalgic selection.

All aboard because it was fun, lots of fun.

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