Dubarry was a Lady
Kiss Me, Kate
Capital Voices: Annie Skates, Kate Graham, Jacqueline Barron, Lisa Hull, Eliza Lumley, Steven Weller, Michael Dore, Michael Henry, Emma Kershaw, Stephen Hill, David Combes, James Graeme
London Concert Orchestra
Reviewed by: Michael Darvell
Reviewed: 30 December, 2006
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
Raymond Gubbay fielded 12 different programmes in his Barbican Christmas Festival, with carols before Christmas and more general programmes afterwards, including popular classics, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Beethoven’s Choral Symphony, Gilbert & Sullivan, an Opera Night and New Year’s Eve and Day galas.
Also included was this afternoon concert of Cole Porter Classics by the London Concert Orchestra and Capital Voices. The orchestra had a big and brassy sound that often hid the subtleties and simplicities of Porter’s tunes and at times overpowered the all-important lyrics which, like those of Noël Coward and Stephen Sondheim, really need to be heard to be fully appreciated. That said, however, conductor and sometimes pianist Richard Balcombe certainly got the best from his band, although the Barbican acoustic may just be too ‘bright’ for this kind of repertoire.
The repertoire is mostly medleys of songs from Porter’s most famous musical-comedy shows and films including “Anything Goes”, “Dubarry was a Lady”, “Can-Can”, “Silk Stockings”, “The Pirate” and “Kiss Me, Kate”. It’s good to hear these songs at any time, but it would have been even better if the dozen singers assembled here had brought more personality to the numbers. Being basically session singers, Capital Voices have to provide the right harmonious choral blend which perhaps doesn’t allow for the kind of individuality you would get in, say, a cabaret situation. Just think of artists such as Steve Ross, the late Bobby Short or even Noël Coward essaying Porter songs because they develop their own life, and they stand out like nuggets of gold. Sadly here they tended to level out with no highs or lows.
Even great duets such as ‘You’re the top’, ‘Well, did you evah?’, ‘Let’s Do It’ and ‘Friendship’ came across with the least amount of impact. Perhaps the extended “Kiss Me, Kate” section in which the cast exaggerated their gestures as strolling players was the most entertaining and, as it is arguably one of Porter’s best scores, every number is a gem. From ‘Another openin’, another show’, through ‘We Open in Venice’, ‘So In Love’ and ‘Wunderbar’ to ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’, ‘Why Can’t You Behave?’ and ‘Too Darn Hot’, it’s a work packed with undoubted joys.
James Graeme provided a brief resume of Cole Porter’s life, linking the songs and shows with just about enough information to keep us interested. Meanwhile, it would be nice to have a ‘Side By Side By Cole Porter’ evening of his more rarely heard songs of which there are plenty, and which deserve to be rediscovered.