Bernstein Revealed at the St James Theatre Studio, London as part of the London Festival of Cabaret.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
Following their successful Rodgers Revealed, the expert team of broadcaster Edward Seckerson and musical director Jason Carr reunited, as part of the London Festival of Cabaret, to celebrate the genius of composer, conductor, pianist, author and activist Leonard Bernstein for one night only.
Aptly starting with a deftly strung together cavalcade of Bernstein tunes in an original overture brilliantly devised by maestro Carr, the faced-paced evening never had a dull moment.
Exploring the life and work of this musical superman, Seckerson’s patter and anecdotes (mostly based on his interview with the master) were always enlightening, although sometimes a little too long, but the evening belonged to West End actress Sophie-Louise Dann.
Recently seen in two big British musicals about Dagenham and Beckham after starring in Lend Me a Tenor (for which she received a 2012 Olivier Award nomination for Best Supporting Role in a musical), multi-talented Dann has also enjoyed an international career, playing the leading role of Dot in Sunday in the Park With George at the Chatelet in Paris in 2013 and headlining Broadway concerts at the Toulon Opera in the south of France,
It is hard to pick out highlights among her impeccable renditions of Bernstein classics, starting with ‘Something’s Coming’ from West Side Story and moving on with both Sherwood sister solo numbers from Wonderful Town: ‘One Hundred Easy Ways’ and ‘A Little Bit in Love’.
Closing Act I was a showstopping ‘I Can Cook Too’ from On the Town, Bernstein’s first Broadway entry.
Comic relief was provided by Tony Award-winning composer Carr, delivering a tongue-in-cheek ‘The Saga of Lenny’, as a leitmotiv, written by none less than Stephen Sondheim himself!
Opening with the too rarely performed ‘What a Movie!’ from Trouble in Tahiti, Act II focused more on lesser-known material such as ‘Mass’, demonstrating the versatility of Bernstein as a composer.
Getting back to Broadway with ‘Nothing More Than This’ and ‘I Am Easily Assimilated’ from Bernstein’s masterpiece Candide, the evening rightly concluded with a medley of ‘Take Care of This House’ from the writer’s ill-fated last musical 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and ‘Somewhere’.
‘Some Other Time’ from On the Town was of course the perfect encore, sending us home (unfortunately without a programme or even notes to remember the wonderful evening by).
Lucky for us that Lenny always favoured his composing to his conducting activities. What a legacy he left us – this new century has yet to give us such a prolific genius.
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