Theatre Review: Jonathan Roxmouth – Back In Lights, Or Facing The Music … Again

December 31, 2021

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By BRUCE DENNILL

Jonathan Roxmouth: Back In Lights / Directed by Weslee Swain Lauder / Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre, Fourways

 

The roller-coaster of the pandemic and the on-again, off-again nature of the regulations that directly affect the staging of theatre productions has left theatre professionals of all stripes and the audiences that love to support and enjoy their work massively frustrated for the best part of two years now. So the simple statement made in the title of this love letter to theatre in general and musical theatre in particular – “We’re back!” (along with the implied, “…and so can you be”) is an affecting intro to the show before it begins.

Supported by a virtuosic on-stage trio – Roelof Colyn in a hugely welcome return to the piano; Kieran Woolmington on electric and acoustic guitars and Lindzi Wiggins on cello – and crisp drum and bass tracks, Roxmouth, in his trademark glittering jackets and shoes, takes the audience through a part-spoken, mostly-sung journey that is biographical in terms of his career and the roles he’s played (or would like to, or perhaps won’t be able to), but also a celebration of a canon, and the culture that surrounds it, with which he remains infatuated.

Early on, elements of a sort of preamble to the well-known hits don’t land as well as what will come later. There is a comedic look back at the pandemic and all the lifestyle changes we have had to endure, as well as a faux “theatre announcement” detailing a ban on humming, throwing food (at least until a song is completed) and other tongue-in-cheek commandments alongside the usual requests to turn off of phones and such. That revision out of the way, though, there begins a commendably varied and interesting setlist that includes the occasional enduring mega-hit, highlights other aspects of the characters singing major roles, and then takes a moment here and there to remind the audience that some of the quieter moments can be just as powerful as the anthems, if not more so.

The centrepiece of the first act is a “Webber-spective” in which Roxmouth recounts some experiences from the many Andrew Lloyd Webber productions he’s starred in, performing excerpts from each and then mashing them up in a fast-paced medley that requires the band to be as much on their toes as he is. Act two is a little more reflective, with highlights including Stars from Les Miserables, Unusual Way from Nine and a moving interpretation of Send In The Clowns from A Little Night Music, which is particularly affecting in the light of the passing of Stephen Sondheim.

Production values are high, with a sparkling set, dramatic lighting and fresh arrangements adding to the impact of the powerful material and its performance. With all COVID-19 protocols observed, this show is, as is regularly proclaimed from the stage, an excellent reason to disrupt a previously enforced routine of Netflix series, social media and the lack of experiences shared with other like-minded human beings.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”default_sidebar”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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