Leslie Bricusse is one of the big names in both stage and screen. Some may recognise Charlie and the Chocolate Factory classics such as ‘Pure Imagination’ or ‘The Candy Man’ among his greatest hits whereas others might be more familiar with ‘In His Eyes’ from Jekyll and Hyde or ‘Talk To The Animals‘ from Doctor Dolittle. For those more familiar with popular music, he is the brains behind ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Feeling Good’.
When you have composed over 1000 songs and written books, music and lyrics for over 40 musical films and plays, it is obviously going to be quite a challenge in selecting your show’s soundtrack. However, Pure Imagination includes 51 of Briscusse’s greatest hits, which covers fan favourites for nearly everyone but leaves no room for context. If, like me, you are from the younger generation, it would be nice to have some sort of context to accompany such a wonderful show.
There may have possibly been a loose plot with two sets of relationships, one between a glamorous actress, Siobhán McCarthy and her husband, Dave Willetts and the other between her assistant, Julie Atherton and her boyfriend, Niall Sheehy. While each song seems to hold its own mini-narrative within the show, it is really Bricusse’s marvellous music that takes centre stage.
Willetts, The Man, makes a fetching James Bond as he ensures his martini is “shaken, not stirred” before taking on the theme song for ‘Goldfinger’. McCarthy, The Woman, is a glitzy star who entertains the audience with a feisty yet witty performance of Two Timer from Sunday Dallas. Atherton’s ‘Pure Imagination’ whisks the audience off to ‘Paris in the Spring’ (Gershwin). Of course, the joker, Giles Terera brings the cast together with the title song and ‘The Candy Man’ from the same film favourite. He really wins the audience over with some sweet surprises.
A personal highlight from the show is toward the end of act one, the cast transports back to a nineteenth century London where they all give energetic and highly amusing cockney London performance. The songs at this point include ‘London is London’ and ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’ from Sherlock Holmes and ‘Thank You Very Much’ from Scrooge.
As far as tributes go, this one comes out near the top. If you’re a big fan of 1950s stage and screen soundtracks, Bricusse probably wrote some of your favourite tunes. Therefore this show is the best way to give credit where it’s due and it is a phenomenally good night out too.
Pure Imagination plays the St James Theatre until 17 October. For tickets and more information, see the St James Theatre website. Photo by Annabel Vere.