Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Jolson and Co - Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Jolson & Co
By: Stephen Mo Hanan and Jay Berkow
Director: Ed Curtis
Reviewer: David Saunders

I arrived at the Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre looking forward to settling into the swing of some old time classic songs performed in the style of one of the world’s greatest entertainers. I was not disappointed. This show has all the glitz you would expect from the any show involving Al Jolson.

In the lead role Allan Stewart brings both the energy and verve of Jolson to life but also the darker side of the man with a performance full of comedic but also dramatic power.

The supporting cast of two, Donna Steele and Christopher Howell put in busy performances with both actors playing in access of seven different roles. This show asks as much of these performers as it does of the lead and both do not disappoint. Ms Steele in particular comes through with flying colours shifting from dramatic to comedic and back with challenging voice work and a fine array of physicality’s to match each of the roles. This is not to talk down the performance of Christopher Howell he moved through all of the major male figures in the life of Jolson offering an important insight into what makes Jolson the man he was.

The set designed by Morgan Large, does everything that this sort of tightly knit touring show requires. The design allows for the cast to move seamlessly through Jolson’s life while adding some clever stylistic touches.

The music of the piece while staying true to the original orchestrations tone has been given a more modern full sound thanks to the work of Gary Hind’s orchestrations and the superlative playing of the production’s band, giving the music of the era real swing.

This show has all of the elements that audiences look for a hard working cast, superb playing and a well told story that has both good amounts of light and shade to it. It is just a shame that shows such as these are not pushed for younger audiences. I for one feel that kids and younger performers would benefit from seeing a show where the subject matter is not about American High School’s and them being musical.

Jolson & Co runs at the Yvonne Arnaud until Saturday 4th April 09
frontpage hit counter