Rhythm of Life is a celebration of the music and success of composer Cy Coleman. The audience learn that Coleman’s first experience on the piano was when one was moved into his flat so that its old home could be rented out. Despite his father’s best efforts, Coleman was relentless and brought us some incredible and much loved musicals such as Barnum, City of Angels and perhaps his most well-known musical, Sweet Charity.
The cast takes the audience through all of Coleman’s greatest hits featuring ‘There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute’ from Barnum, ‘You’re Nothing Without Me’ from City of Angels and the show’s title song, ‘Rhythm of Life’ from Sweet Charity.
The show takes on a similar format to Jerry’s Girls, which honours the work of Jerry Herman. The ‘musical martinis’ are interspersed with anecdotes and facts from the composer’s life.
The small cast includes Marti Webb, Debbie Kurup, John Barr and Cedric Neal. They are accompanied by pianist and Musical Director, Michael Webborn. It does seem to take them a while to warm up and it feels more like they are just singing at the audience at first. It only takes a few songs before the cast start giving entertaining performances that give Coleman’s songs the justice they deserve and the rest of the show is far more entertaining to watch.
Neal does a hilariously melodramatic version of ‘I Love to Cry at Weddings’ from Sweet Charity that flawlessly merges into ‘Real Live Girl’ from Little Girl. Webb blows the audience away with her take on ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’. Barr’s animated ‘There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute’ is an absolute delight to watch. Kurup’s ‘Lovers on Christmas Eve’ from I Love My Wife is both charming and quite funny.
Two of Coleman’s songs are given a London debut by the cast. ‘You There in the Back Row’ from 13 Days to Broadway and ‘Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like’ from The Will Rogers Follies have never before been played in London. Audiences can also expect to hear a song from Pamela’s First Musical – a show Coleman was working on when he died.
Overall the show has charm and is entertaining. There is no lack of humour from anyone in the cast but the show still seems a little lacklustre. The cast’s performances need more vigour to match the energy of the songs.
Rhythm of Life plays The St James Theatre until 11 July. For more information and tickets, see The St James Theatre website. Image by St James Theatre.