Chicago Theater Review: AN ANTHONY NEWLEY AND LESLIE BRICUSSE SONGBOOK (Theo Ubique)

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by Lawrence Bommer on June 18, 2016

in Theater-Chicago

THE CANDY COUPLE

“The world belongs to the fools who dare to dream”: Reprising the crowd pleasure of music-hall euphoria and pantomime cut-ups with a charming quintet of Cockney buskers, An Anthony Newley – Leslie Bricusse Songbook is an endearing 80-minute confection from Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. It turns No Exit Café, a music mecca on Chicago’s North Side, into a delightful showcase for five new talents and 22 grand old songs.

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From their first hit, the 1962 romp Stop The World, I Want To Get Off to their last musical The Good Old Bad Old Days in 1974 to their final film Scrooge in 1991, this duo exuded “Pure Imagination” (a 1971 hit). They also created bumptious vehicles for Newley’s richly nasal voice and Bricusse’s avant-garde proclivities. A song and dance man with a “Goldfinger” (the theme of the 1964 James Bond film), Newley was, like his 1971 hit, a “Candy Man” who can, heeding and inhaling The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd (a 1964 chart-buster) and talking to the animals in 1967’s Dr. Dolittle. Their buoyant, optimistic offerings, like the all-embracing “Once in a Lifetime,” are instantly and eternally youthful. That’s reason enough why Fred Anzevino’s recreation of almost two dozen characteristic winners sports a young ensemble in a night of good times set to thousands of notes.

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As much as “Gonna Build A Mountain” was a 1966 calling card for a glad-handing Newley, it gives fresh-faced Ryan Armstrong a pile to drive and motivation for merriment. In contrast to this rouser, newcomer Graham Thomas Heacock digs heartbreak out of their equally famous “Who Can I Turn To (If You Turn Away)?” and smiles up a storm in “Thank You Very Much” from Scrooge. Averis I. Anderson reinvents Gene Wilder’s insouciance with “The Candy Man.” Paige Faye Hunter seductively warns us all over against the arch villain Goldfinger “who loves only gold,” then moves from vixen to soubrette in the satirical ditty “Typically English,” the lament of an ingénue who is “’Pygmalion’ bored.” Graham and Ryan are a double delight in the impish duet “Look At That Face.”

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Holding the revue together are the Vladimir and Estragon antics of magician-like David Wesley Mitchell and Armstrong’s winsome waif, waxing wonderful in the vaudevillian duet “Mustn’t Grumble, Can’t Complain.” The men brilliantly contrast the styles and emotions embedded in the trio “Yesterday,” “Tomorrow” and “Today” from the almost forgotten (or never known) The Good Old Bad Old Days. Music director/arranger Jeremy Ramey provides astute accompaniment and sculpts the lovely harmony in the trio “When You Gotta Go”) from another extinct film with a dreadful title, Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (Try putting that on a theater marquee!)

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Happiness needs no dilution or excuse. Abounding in Rogers Park, this summer special spills over the stage and lingers in the hearts as much as ears of grateful crowds between now and the end of July. Their 1965 song modestly sums it up–“Feeling Good”–and the 1964 number “It Isn’t Enough.”

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photos by Adam Veness

An Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse Songbook
Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave.
Thurs at 7:30; Fri & Sat at 8; Sun at 7
ends on July 31, 2016
for tickets, call 800.595.4849 or visit Theo Ubique

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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