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A Song Cycle For Soho review at Soho Downstairs London

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For 20 years Mercury Musical Developments has been dedicated to developing and supporting the craft of composers, lyricists and book-writers working in musical theatre. Their anniversary year kicks off with this song cycle dedicated to one of the more cosmopolitan square miles of west London and featuring the work of some of the finest lyricists and composers in the UK today.

Book writer Andrew Brinded and the vast pool of songwriters have avoided the very obvious Soho cliches to bring together an idiosyncratic, though thoroughly entertaining, musical revue. Director Simon Greiff uses the limited space of the intimate venue particularly well and the accompaniment on the piano by musical director Sarah Travis and guitarist John Gregson is sublime.

While there is no narrative structure as such, themes as disparate as the cholera epidemic of 1854 examined in Rebecca Applin and Susannah Pearse’s Do Not Linger sit easily against a Dougal Irvine’s thoughtful and rather touching The Ballad Of The Horsely Brothers. Christopher Ash and Carl Miller’s Self Respect references a music-hall style to give colour and credence to the story of Ronnie Kray’s one-time fiance while a classic cabaret treatment brings Pippa Cleary and Jake Brunger’s Hey Beautiful People to life.

Vocalist Claire Moore tackles the comedy of Barnaby Race’s Mummy Knows Better with evident glee while Niamh Perry brings a deep sense of longing to the poignant Does Any Body Know My Name? by lyricist Pearse and composer Christopher Hamilton. Michael Cantwell and James Gillan are a perfect vocal partnership for The Ballad Of The Horsely Brothers but Cantwell plays to his comic strengths with Alexander S Bermange’s popular It’s Hard To Be An Artist.

A Song Cycle For Soho may not begin to offer any solutions to the complexities of life in modern London but it does offer a good deal of hope for the future of British musical theatre.

Production Information

Soho Downstairs, London, February 27-March 3

Andrew Brinded (book), Tim Sutton, Rebecca Applin, Susannah Pearse, Dougal Irvine, Christopher Ash, Carl Miller, Pippa Cleary, Jake Brunger, Barnaby Race, Christopher Hamilton, Alexander S Bermange (composers and lyricists)
Simon Greiff
Mercury Musical Developments
Michael Cantwell, James Gillan, Claire Moore and Niamh Perry
Running time
1hr 10mins

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