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All The Fun Of The Fair
Garrick Theatre   Summer 2010

David Essex's musical, which has actually been touring for two years and now comes to spend a summer in London, is an amiable entertainment that makes no demands on its audience other than to sit back and let it come to them.

In the genre of 'juke box musicals,' built on an already existing catalogue of songs, it ranks well ahead of Dirty Dancing and Dreamboats And Petticoats, though not in the same league as Mamma Mia or Jersey Boys.

David Essex plays the proprietor of a travelling fun fair whose son falls in love with the daughter of a local hardman, much to the displeasure of both fathers and to the lad's previous girlfriend. A subplot has the fair's fortune teller in love with the boss, who is still grieving for his late wife, while a nice plot and characterisation touch makes the two fathers similar enough that it's clear they could have been friends in different circumstances.

The score is made up of David Essex songs, including many of his hits from the 1970s, and book writer Jon Conway has integrated them into the story very skilfully, so that only a couple seem uncomfortably shoehorned in.

Indeed, it is a nice revelation that many of the songs are inherently dramatic and that some written as solos convert successfully to duets or group numbers.

'He Noticed Me' is sung in tandem by the two girls who love the boy, each giving it a different flavour, while 'Rock On' becomes a nostalgia-fuelled bonding moment for the two fathers and  'Father And Son' is a lovely duet for the father and son.

The best redefining of a song comes as Louise English as the fortune teller sings 'You're In My Heart' about David Essex's character while he sings it to his dead wife.

David Essex is a warm and fatherly host for the evening, guaranteeing a sense that nothing can go too terribly wrong, and fans will be pleased to know that his voice may have a bit more of a tremolo and sob in it, but is still all there.

Louise English is the best singer in the cast, Christopher Timothy sustains a sense of the gangster's inherent decency, and Michael Pickering and Nicola Brazil make an attractive pair of lovers.

All The Fun Of The Fair does not advance the art form an inch, but it provides an honest moneysworth of entertainment.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - All The Fun Of The Fair - Garrick 2010