Pity the lot of the lyricist, perpetually destined – in the public’s perception, at least – to play Tonto to the composer’s Lone Ranger.
Save for Tim Rice and Hal David, linked for time immemorial with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Burt Bacharach respectively, the lyricist generally cuts a somewhat shadowy figure.
Yet Don Black is right up there with the best. In fact, when it comes to volume of output (more than 2,000 songs – 100 for movies, and 20 musicals) and success – his house is stuffed with Oscars, Tonys and Golden Globes, Ivor Novellos and platinum and gold discs – he’s the king of the lyricists’ castle.
So it’s about time his 50-year career was given the attention it deserves.
What a shame then that the audience for this “From Hackney to Hollywood” concert was as modest as the man is himself.
Still, while the thinness of the crowd made it difficult to generate too much atmosphere, the cast threw themselves into delivering an entertaining evening.
It must be a pleasure to pick from a catalogue with such breadth and depth, and the programme was carefully balanced between Black’s show tunes, film scores (including his 007 collaborations with John Barry), TV themes and pop songs, all interwoven with humorous entries from the lyricist’s own diaries.
Gary Wilmot drew the narrative together as a genial compere-cum-singer (his vocals at times a little papery, perhaps he’s been ill?), joined either in turn or in a wall-of-sound quintet by Martine McCutcheon and her husband Jack McManus, along with Ricardo Alfonso and Ria Jones.
Alfonso’s voice has a touch of Simon le Bon whine about it, but he gave numbers like Thunderball and The Journey Home (from Bombay Dreams) plenty of welly, the latter with some powerful top notes.
Meanwhile, McCutcheon has a lovely mellowness in her lower ranges, which worked well in songs like Walk Away, and she and Ria Jones collaborated on a medley of sweetly-sung numbers from Tell Me On a Sunday.
Add in the Oscar-winning Born Free, cheeky Some of Us Belong to the Stars from the musical Billy (and equally cheeky nod to EastEnders with Anyone Can Fall in Love), Ben, and Love Changes Everything, and you got a worthy musical tribute to the man himself.
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