Culture correspondent BELLA BARTOCK dusted off her glad rags, and her Zimmer frame, to get along to the Braithwaite Hall for an innovative take on a birthday party
It’s not often I get invited along to birthday parties these days, and even rarer for me to be asked to a party for someone, or something, younger than I.
So it was with special pleasure that I shuffled along to Katharine Street last night for the opening performance of Spectacular, Spectacular (so spectacular they named it twice), which is CODA’s way of celebrating its 75th anniversary.
The set-up in the Braithwaite Hall is not theatrical, but more that of a seedy night club (what do you expect, we’re next door to the Town Hall, after all), for which I was especially grateful, as I was able to rest my walking frame and Moncier hand bag under the table and take a seat while my companion for the evening, Claudia de Boozy, organised the drinks.
For the next couple of hours, Claudia and I were transported back to the era of our youth – Rodgers and Hammerstein, since you ask, so indelicately, rather than Gilbert and Sullivan – with show tunes and big performance numbers that had me tapping my toe throughout.
This was a show that really did have the “X Factor”, and fortunately with that rather irritating Cowell person no where to be seen.
The Croydon Operatic and Dramatic Association has opted to unleash a cabaret revue on the public, and judging by the rapturous applause of our fellow audience members (the Hall looked close to sold out for the first of the short run of just five performances), Claudia and I were not the only ones impressed.
There were so many highlights of the cavalcade of song and dance, there is a real risk that I may fail to mention some deserving performer. But that old bastard of an editor said I only have 700 words (“But dahling, isn’t it all virtual space these days?” I pleaded. “Not at the lineage rate we’re paying you,” he barked back at me).
Robert Randall and Ian Rae proved themselves to be supremely clever musical directors and arrangers, “Send In The Clowns” being a particular highlight, as well as their ingenious mash-ups of the songs of R&H and G&S. It all helped make the G&T flow rather easily.
I have no idea where they got their immensely talented backing band from, but they provided excellent musical accompaniment for the all-singing, all-dancing CODA members.
And it was such a joy to see gentlemen performers properly dressed for a night at the theatre, in black tie and dinner jacket.
Claudia seemed to be particularly taken with Dom Binefa, who provided roaringly good performances of “If I Can’t Love Her” from Beauty And The Beast and “Anthem” from Chess.
Sophia Wilson’s skittish portrayal of Eliza Dolittle singing “I Could Have Danced All Night” reminded me of the time I saw young Julie perform the role at Drury Lane. Truly luvverly.
It being a cabaret night, there were numbers from Cabaret, too, as Luca Crawford’s somewhat impassioned performance of “Maybe This Time”, while Peter Davis’s “Two Ladies”, with Phoebe Dunster and Claire Kennard, brought the house down.
This was all, it should be noted, wittily compered by Peter Bramwell and David Sanders, who provided the glue to hold the whole thing together.
And still the great numbers kept coming, such as Cat Coe’s marvellous “If They Could See Me Now” from Sweet Charity, and Owen Moore’s invigorating “Luck Be A Lady Tonight”, which was all the more remarkable because they somehow managed to find half a dozen men who can dance.
Director Sasha Cherry has done a, well.. spectacular job, and showed she has a spectacular voice she has in the show’s closing number.
It was hugely slick and supremely entertaining, and the special offer of five tickets for the price of four is still available, if there are any spare seats unsold between now and Saturday’s final performance.
And for ladies of a certain age, it was thankfully not too long, either. Claudia and I were in the Spread Eagle before 10 o’clock, for one last sharpener before the journey home.
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