The Theatreguide.London Review
Song Cycle For Soho
Soho Theatre Spring 2012
Like it says on the tin, this is a plotless string of songs about the London neighbourhood surrounding the theatre, performed by four singers individually and in various combinations. Though the songs inevitably vary in quality (and in relevance to the theme), they make for an enjoyable if quickly forgettable hour.
Unusually for anthologies like this, the songs aren't all by one composer or team. Rather, compiler Andrew Brinded invited more than two dozen composers and lyricists to write songs in some way connected to Soho past or present.
The results fall into three occasionally overlapping categories – historical, like Rebecca Applin and Susannah Pearse's salute to a nineteenth-century doctor; serious mood pieces, like Andrew Brinded's soliloquy of a straying wife; and comic or satiric songs, like the romantic paean to Ronnie Kray by Christopher Ash and Carl Miller.
Generally speaking, the comic songs work better than the serious ones. In the latter group, for example, 'Does Anybody Know My Name?', 'I Wish I Wish' and 'If Nobody Knows Your Name', written by three different teams and sung by different performers, come across as essentially the same not-particularly-Soho-related song, the lament of a lonely person in the big city.
The most successful of the serious numbers is 'Sweet Sixteen' by Richard Thomas and Alethea Wiles, about a young girl's sweet romance with a drug-taker who she and we sense may not survive the length of the song.
Among the best comic songs are 'Old Compton Street' (Alexander Rudd and Jenifer Toksvig), two women's reminiscences of their amorous misadventures; 'It's Hard To Be An Artist (Alexander S. Bermange), about a seventeenth-century painter commissioned to paint a formal portrait of a corpse; and the aforementioned Ronnie Kray salute.
Inevitably, as in any collection of theatre songs by contemporary writers, there is frequent evidence of the influence of Stephen Sondheim in music and lyrics, and you might also spot echoes of Cole Porter and Billy Joel in individual numbers.
The four performers – Claire Moore, Niamh Perry, Michael Cantwell and James Gillan – work smoothly together under Simon Greiff's direction, and each gets one or more solo moments, with Moore and Cantwell the more impressive, both vocally and dramatically.
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Review - Song Cycle For Soho - Soho Theatre 2012