Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Review: Jazz review show is a winter warmer

THE river was high in Newbury but lucky for us, we were transported on board an ocen liner destined for New York — with five musicians. This jazz review show recreated the feel of immigrants heading to Ellis Island for a better life back in the Twenties.

The Watermill’s stock-in-trade is to produce new work with an ensemble cast who double up as actors/musicians, and legendary bandleader King Oliver would have been proud of this band. Between the five of them, they appeared to play every instrument under the sun.

There could have been more depth to this show, with more back stories and a sharper plot, but if you like the kind of light, easy listening music you get on BBC Radio 2 you will enjoy it.

Simon Salter, who compiled the show and acted as narrator-musician, had assembled a motley crew of stowaways. Alex Evans as the Toff had a clipped, upper-class stiffness that seduced the entire audience, and he gave a marvellous rendition of The Way You Look Tonight. In stark contrast the spirit-drinking, comic skills of Irishman (Julian Littman) kept us entertained. Sarah Scowen as the cockney Girl Next Door was delightful and faultless.

Alana Maria as the smoky, sultry Chanteuse engaged us with Inka Dinka Doo, and invited the audience to join in with snippets of the toe-tapping Minnie the Moocher. The audience willingly participated. She oozed the urban independence of a blues and jazz singer from America at that time, embodying the sophistication, glamour, hope and opportunity that the new world promised.

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