Lanza – Bridewell Theatre

Lanza was performed at the Bridewell Theatre, London.

Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩

One sensational entry out of four instalments in the Opera in the City Festival, Lanza tells the incredible journey of the hugely popular singer and actor Mario Lanza who, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, rose to fame and fortune, but spiralled down into a drunk, depressive state in his latter years (ultimately leading to his early death from a heart attack in 1959 at the age of 38).

Andrew Bain, who surprisingly studied dentistry at university, passionately portrays Lanza in the show he has written, originally designed back in 2009 as a short one-man concert of the singer/actor’s lauded work with ad-libbed facts offered in-between songs.

Bain explains that during one of his concerts, director Anthony Shrubsall was present and the pair joined forces to produce this remarkable show about a Hollywood giant that disappeared off our radars.

The 120-seat venue is a marvellous setting to tell the story via 15 well-placed classics such as ‘Granada’, ‘Be My Love’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

A huge admirer of Lanza, Bain is born to play the role. It’s interesting to note that Lanza played tenor Enrico Caruso, his idol, in his first film The Great Caruso, which was the highest-grossing film of 1951.

Bain truly captures Lanza’s charisma and his brilliantly powerful opera/pop crossover voice, often sounding intensely similar to the star’s distinct sound.

Alongside Bain, is Julie Rose Smith who portrays each woman who enters Lanza’s life, and takes the lead vocals on ‘Someday’.

Smith perfectly characterises the likes of Lanza’s mother, his wife, his nurse, and even his dresser on the set of a Hollywood production.

Some of the roles are not necessary to the plot, but bring a welcome contrast to the monologues, and Smith demonstrates some superb comic timing in the process.

Flawless piano accompaniment comes from Tsivi Sharett who is also very much part of the production.

The set is minimalistic, with only a politely decorated piano, a desk with a gramophone, and a hospital bed, while Smith uses other props and costumes to create her characters.

Alex Grainger

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