Starting Here, Starting Now – The Pheasantry

Carolyn Maitland with suitable props for 'I Am Going To Make You Beautiful'

Carolyn Maitland, with Kris Rawlinson on piano, in Starting Here, Starting Now at The Pheasantry, London. Picture: Richard Parnwell

Starting Here, Starting Now at The Pheasantry, London continues until 20 April.

Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩

Three sparking talents, Sam Lupton, Carolyn Maitland and Kayleigh McKnight, turn 24 songs by Richard Maltby Jr and David Shire, not all of them by any means memorable, into a classy, polished revue at The Pheasantry.

Any songwriter would be delighted to have this attractive, well-rehearsed trio breathe life into their material and, in truth, they are more impressive than much of the writing in this fast-moving show, the first in two weeks of Maltby and Shire from the production team of Neil Eckersley and Leonie Webb.

The second, Closer Than Ever, is part of the London Festival of Cabaret at the same Chelsea venue next week.

Starting Here, Starting Now pulls together material the partners, who first met up at Yale wrote for other shows that either closed out of town or were never produced; ‘story songs’ giving their characters a chance to explore a mini-drama, which the composers felt deserved another outing.

It explores the catalogue of emotions in romantic situations, from first kiss to heartbreaking separation. Act I deals with relationships, Act II is devoted to self-discovery although there is no continuity of storylines as such.

The title song, as well as ‘What About Today?’ and ’Autumn’, are songs that reached a wider audience through Streisand, while Liza Minnelli took the show’s best number ‘One Step’ to another level, but Maitland’s and McKnight’s versions stand up well even in such elite company.

Lupton’s bitter and intense feel to the dramatic ‘I Don’t Remember Christmas’ is compelling, while Maltby’s witty lyrics are given full rein in ‘I Am Going to Make You Beautiful’ (Maitland, with billowing cloud of talcum powder as a prop) and the clever ‘Crossword Puzzle’ (McKnight).

All three, fine actors as well as singers, work well together in a risqué spin on marriage (‘I Don’t Believe It’) and a belter of a finale, the ever-hopeful ‘A New Life Coming’.

Even so, and notwithstanding the fine musicianship of Kris Rawlinson on piano and Doug Weekes on bass, it’s not a confection that has sent me rushing out to buy the original cast, Grammy-nominated CD of a revue that first saw light of day in 1976, had a 120-run Off-Broadway the following year and came to London first in 1984.

But I shall remember the names of an absolutely tip-top cast. There’s a different line-up next week for Closer Than Ever, a later piece of work, and the bar has been set high.

Jeremy Chapman

London Festival of Cabaret 2016 – all the details – News

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