This virtuosic triple bill takes you through everything from the greats, to fun gags, to dark humour in just 80 minutes. Unfortunately, it finishes with a disappointing second act that feels out of place alongside the acclaimed Gershwin.
It’s all set in the Print Room at the Coronet, a fantastically edgy theatre that makes you feel like you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole into Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and has a funky atmosphere that I will definitely be returning to.
The show begins with Phillip Edward Fisher playing Gershwin’s classic – Rhapsody in Blue. Fisher meticulously executes this piece with faultless ease. He plays around with the rhythm but doesn’t miss a beat, passionately hitting each key with his nimble fingers. This famous composition is extremely intricate and, as always, delightful to listen to. Fisher’s speed and accuracy does this multi-textured piece justice. Each section feels like a miniature conversation, and expresses so much more than words ever could.
There is then a sudden change of pace, as we go into Rhapsody in You composed by Richard Thomas. This is a selection of miniatures that each have amusing titles such as: ‘I Need a Hug’, ‘Joy Burst One’ & ‘Two’, ‘Blah Blah Land’, ‘Running Through a Field of Wheat’ and ‘Car Alarm Insomnia’. Each provides a charming essence evocative of its description, my personal favourites being ‘Walking Back From The Pub’, which voraciously replicates a joyful drunken stomp, and ‘Tinnitus’, which is tragically mournful and poignant. ‘Brexit Conversation’ also imitates a flurried jumble of notes that show utter confusion and panic, and its wit had the audience giggling. Some pieces manage to capture a delightful flavour of emotion, and feel like discussion rather than music, whereas other miniatures fade into the background. However, there are enough golden gems to keep you engaged throughout this part of the show.
There is then an abrupt change of pace after the interval, that feels tacky in comparison to the sophisticated first half. Sooz Kempner and Thomas perform a series of short songs ranging from five to sixty seconds, depicting a cynical take on Christmas and other random, occasionally political, subjects. Most end with a sharp punch line, which when repeated end up feeling tiresome. Some are witty, others are bizarre. There is then a slapstick section of the evening, which includes accurate impressions of Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland and Kate Bush. Each song has an equally bizarre title, examples include ‘Theresa May’ and ‘Mrs Scrooge’s Song’. Kempner sings with versatility and demonstrates an impressive range – however her voice is not entirely convincing and has a strong twang a lot of the time. Overall, this is a definite dip in the night, and feels completely negative in what should be a positive, festive time.
There is no doubt that Thomas is a talented composer and his miniatures are handsomely written; all of which are exquisitely played by Fisher. However Wrong Songs For Christmas doesn’t follow this high standard and it is an unfortunate way to end the show.
Rhapsody In You and Wrong Songs for Christmas played at the Print Room at the Coronet on 15 December. For more information and tickets, click here.