PURE IMAGINATION: THE SONGS OF LESLIE BRICUSSE – St James Theatre, London.
Pure Imagination – The Songs of Leslie Bricusse oozes class. From the moment you see the elegant set, a three-dimensional backdrop of swirling sheet music, you know you are in for a special evening. Director Christopher Renshaw, casting director Danielle Tarento and Bricusse himself have devised a lavish and enthralling showcase for some of the composer’s most well known and loved songs, some of which you may not have realised he wrote.
Leslie Bricusse is the writer, composer and lyricist of a huge variety of stage musicals and film scores, from Jekyll & Hyde and Victor/Victoria to the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and themes from James Bond films Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice. With such a wide variation in style of his back catalogue, it must be quite a challenge to combine the best of his work into a cohesive whole but with the aid of some unique orchestrations by musical director Michael England, that challenge is more than met.
Great care has been taken over the songs chosen and the running order. Each song has its own story but the narratives interlink in a subtle but effective way, flowing seamlessly between characters and stories, sometimes borrowed from the original material, sometimes created anew. Never is there a moment where the fluidity is disrupted, you are simply uplifted and swept along on a wave of tenderness, nostalgia, humour and above all, timeless music.
Equal effort has been made on the production to give these wonderful songs the exhibition they deserve, and the standards are high. Every element of the design blends together perfectly, from the lighting by Derek Anderson to the musical staging by Matthew Cole. The video design by Timothy Bird and animation by Maria Lam and Dan Denton work wonders, denoting changes in mood and scenes without ever dominating, the way projections often can.
Of course, the best design is nothing without a cast to match, and the cast assembled here is world class. Critically acclaimed veterans Dave Willetts and Siobhán McCarthy are joined by Julie Atherton, Niall Sheehy and Giles Terera, musical Theatre stars at the top of their game. Superb vocals and equally strong acting lend the intricate and textured material just as much life as in its original form. Sometimes wistful and melancholic, sometime witty and playful, it is an understatement to say the five actors do Bricusse’s music justice. There is not a weak link among them.
As the title of the production suggests, imagination and flare has been poured into Pure Imagination. Dynamic and full of joy, it will delight you with its passion and artistry, and the sheer quality of 60 years worth of consistently brilliant music. There is not a film or musical lover out there that will not find something here to cherish.
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By Catherine Duffy
24th September – 17th October 2015
St James Theatre, London SW1E 5JA.