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Pure Imagination – The Songs of Leslie Bricusse review at London’s St James Theatre – ‘immaculately arranged’

Siobhan McCarthy, Dave Willetts, Niall Sheehy and Julie Atherton in Pure Imagination – The Songs of Leslie Bricusse at St James Theatre. Photo: Annabel Vere Siobhan McCarthy, Dave Willetts, Niall Sheehy and Julie Atherton in Pure Imagination – The Songs of Leslie Bricusse at St James Theatre. Photo: Annabel Vere
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When you wade through the sea of hits written by British-born composer Leslie Bricusse, you begin to wonder why Pure Imagination has not made it to the stage before now. Aside from scoring major film musicals including Scrooge, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Dr Dolittle, Bricusse is the king of collaboration, working with Henry Mancini, John Williams, Frank Wildhorn and John Barry on a host popular hits. Bricusse’s collaboration with Anthony Newley flourished to provide a soundtrack to the 60s and 70s, with hits from Feelin’ Good to a selection of classic Bond theme tunes.

This compilation, devised by Bricusse himself with director Christopher Renshaw and producer Danielle Tarento, negotiates the hits thoughtfully, grouping together themes and threading an ambiguous boy-meets-girl story through the show. There is no dialogue, but Bricusse’s songs communicate a rich emotional narrative, from the gaudy simplicity of My Old Man’s a Dustman to the delicate The Songs of Summer.

Tarento’s casting is immaculate, producing a talented company who are versatile enough to deal with the range in both style and form. Certain anthems stand out, such as Niall Sheehy’s triumphant This Is the Moment and Giles Terera’s What Kind of Fool Am I?, while Dave Willetts playfully reinvents the epic Goldfinger. Meanwhile Julie Atherton and Siobhan McCarthy bring a shattering honesty to the melodramatic In His Eyes from Jekyll and Hyde.

Whether as lyricist or composer, Pure Imagination celebrates a master craftsman in Bricusse and his uncanny ability to adapt to a variety of musical styles in turn helped both define and inspire a generation.

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Verdict
A staggering selection of hits, immaculately arranged and delivered with talent, wit and invention
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