Only in musicals… Gotta Sing Gotta Dance at Richmond Theatre
See this show. It will allow you to experience the beauty and grandeur of song and dance at its best. At Richmond Theatre.
The title of a theatre production is designed to provoke a reaction; Gotta Sing Gotta Dance had a decided effect on me, leading me to expect the usual fare of song and dance energetically contrived. What a surprise I was in for as I viewed the unfolding of a wonderfully coherent and original production that turned out to be a stunning exposé of the last sixty years of musical theatre.
It was clear to me the show’s success is founded on the knowledge and inventiveness of its director Chris Jordan, choreographer Nick Winston and musical director Chris Whitehead. They are also well supported by lighting designer Douglas Morgan, Clement Rawling on sound and Shelley Stevens on costumes.
Part nostalgia and overwhelmingly memorable, the show’s organisation of chosen songs is a winner. Using some chronological elements (for instance, the show opens with the musicals of the 1930s and 40s) songs are bracketed together for a number of reasons, each achieving an entertaining effect. For instance, there are brackets based on WW2 musicals (This is the Army, South Pacific) and others on the “jukebox” musicals of ABBA (Mamma Mia) and Michael Jackson (Thriller). There are even brackets of songs on musicals in which the central characters were nuns! Mostly though, the show delivers memorable tributes to musical theatre composers such as Sondheim, Bernstein and Lloyd-Webber.
The result is an interesting assembly of refreshing contexts for listening to and viewing the well-known musical hits of yesteryear and today. I particularly liked the tongue-in-cheek rivalry built into the presentation of English or American musicals. Using the famous Annie Get Your Gun song of “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better”, the medley that followed played an interest contrast between British down-to-earthiness and American glitz. And then just as “The Lambeth Walk” ended the bracket, the subject is undercut with the introduction of “Stars” from Les Miserables and the French musical.
Undoubtedly for me, the strongest element that carries the show is the energy and versatility of its cast: Simon Adkins, Alison Dormer, Lucinda Lawrence, Rebecca Lisewski, David McMullan and Adam Rhys-Charles are stunningly talented individuals of musical theatre: they demonstrate why London is such a respected destination of viewing it. Even taking into account the latest in near-invisible microphones to amplify the voices, the quality of each cast member’s voice is noteworthy. This enabled the director to arrange the presentations as solos, duets, trios and other configurations with gusto.
The emotional effect of the selected songs works its magic on the audience. Encountering
some songs felt like meeting dear friends again. I found myself remembering when and where I’d heard the song in other productions over the years. Such a reaction said to me that the real “star” of the show was “the musical” itself and the way it so economically yet powerfully tells stories by creating deeply emotive moments for audiences to experience.
Gotta Sing Gotta Dance successfully steers away from cliches and shows us the way that musicals carry us into another world, like when in presenting Singing in the Rain it allows the audience to see behind the filming of Gene Kelly’s famous tap dancing routine. It is a very honest show which plays with the limits of the musical theatre form as much as its strengths. The three minute arrangement though West End musicals shows up how easily satire can be applied to it: it’s possible that everyone knows that life can’t be that easily condensed or stylised… except of course in musicals!