All the fun of the fair review
All the Fun of the Fair by Lynda PageIts the 1950s and Grundys Travelling Fair arrives in town with a bang. When night falls, the local town is drawn to the Fair. But when the Fairgoers head home, the Grundys are left behind. Hours are long and the work is back-breaking. But family and friends hold things together.
I dont know about you but my friends and I used to look forward to the Fair coming. The smells, music, favourite rides and atmosphere all meant different things to each other. It did not matter whether you had money or not.
Gemma (Gem) married into the lifestyle after falling in love with Solomon (Solly). Sollys dad, Samson, although getting on in years, is still the boss of Grundys Travelling Fair. Samsons other son, Sonny, who is the eldest, has other plans for the Fair once he inherits it from his father. The travelling families are close knit and look out for each other. When someone is in trouble they all rally round to help. I am a big fan of Lynda Page and I have read all of her books. This book is full of secrets, romance, heartbreak and a couple of twists I never saw coming. I loved it from beginning to end.
I would like to thank NetGalley, Canelo and the author Lynda Page for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
All the Fun of the Fair review at Garrick Theatre London
In one of my favourite not-too-bad movies, The Big Circus, Victor Mature plays a world-weary impresario and Peter Lorre a twitchy, neurotic clown, as romantic and shady plot strands unravel under the high wire. David Essex does something similar in his new musical designed to reprise a lifetime of pop-tastic hits from "Hold Me Close" to "Silver Dream Machine". He plays Levi Lee, boss of a travelling fairground that has fallen on hard times, unable to revive the Wall of Death as a star attraction, but keen to keep the show on the road and the "family" together. The neurotic clown in this instance is Slow Jonny on the rifle range, whom Tim Newman invests with one of those subnormal demeanours known only to actors, and the business threat comes from a gang of East End thugs led by Christopher Timothy whose henchman in black leathers flexes his pecs, ears and biceps as if stuck in a Bob Hoskins-lookalike competition. Chief thug's daughter falls for Levi's son, a Jack-the-lad who is a version of how Essex as Levi would like to see himself "The older I get the better I was" when he had dark curly hair and was dubbed the daredevil king. This lets in the bike motif, and the two fairly irresistible closer numbers in each half, "Gonna Make You a Star," and "Silver Dream Machine. David Gilmore's production may not have the sinister fairground glamour and technical pizzazz of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Coney Island melodrama across town, Love Never Dies but it does have its own quality of London pride, Essex as in the place, and the star nostalgia and delight in making pop music.
After a brief period in the West End, this jukebox musical featuring a back catalogue of songs by David Essex is once again embarking on a tour of the UK. The amiable and not altogether predictable tale sees a Romeo and Juliet love story unfold in a seventies funfair. As ubiquitious as Essex may have been in the seventies pop and musical theatre scene, there are not really enough hits to populate the story and all of the best numbers appear in the first act. Ultimately what makes this tour worth the ticket price is the presence of its composer in a leading role, a rare and welcome sight on stage today. Essex presence on stage as Levi is dangerously louche but devilishly charming, replete with disgracefully sly silent asides to a legion of fans in the audience. Louise English as Rosa is more than a match for Essex on stage and one of the highlights of the evening is the delightful Rock On number where, joined by David Burrows as Harvey, the mature members of the cast recall a wilder youth.
With a long and successful recording career behind him, David Essex has considerable deposits in his musical bank account. And that's exactly what he's drawn on to put together a new show which also has the same title as one of his early albums — first aired in And Essex is no stranger to West End shows having played Jesus in the original production of Godspell, and Che in the original version of Evita. Though Jon Conway's book tries to draw on some modern themes — for example, divorce, how to cope with offspring who are struggling to find their own way in life, and the plight of travellers and so forth — the script is really rather tame and the jokes are contrived and mostly fall flat. I knew we were in the realms of near-desperation, when one of the principals lost his trousers — always a bad sign.
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A chiming Chris Spedding guitar lament opens David Essex 's third album, paving the way for what remains the most adventurous yet of the singer's '70s output. Loosely thematic, if not all-out conceptual, All the Fun of the Fair opens and closes with a dive into the underworld of fairground culture that so fascinated the youthful Essex , and was so exquisitely recreated for That'll Be the Day. And, in between, All the Fun of the Fair is as excitable as an evening spent on all your favorite rides. In terms of sonics, Essex and producer Jeff Wayne were now adeptly working two distinct themes -- the jaunty even cheeky ballads epitomized by the potently, if almost painfully, sentimental "If I Could," and the slow-burning sultriness that looked back to "Rock On," and flavors "Circles," "Watch Out Carolina ," and "Rolling Stone. The most eternal song, however, is "Hold Me Close," the second of the three U. Effortlessly singalong, eminently personable, it was performed in Essex 's best cockney yowl -- and it was almost 30 years before he admitted that this most unaffectedly heartwarming of performances was banged out on the very last day of the sessions, with the record label bigwigs waiting in reception, anxious to hear the finished LP.
The show's title comes from Essex' top-selling album and is co-written by Jon Conway, telling the story of widower and funfair owner Levi Lee Essex , who is coming to terms with the loss of his wife, battling the attentions of a newly-divorced woman, and struggling to deal with his rebellious teenage son's tangled love life. The creative team includes Ian Westbrook scenic and costume design , Ben Cracknell lighting design , and Steve Jonas sound design. The critics have begun to weigh in on this jukebox tuner and seem to be charmed by both the show as a whole, and Essex's return to the stage. Evening Standard Fair play to him, David Essex rocks on in this pacy love story "It is, simply, a cut-price Romeo and Juliet, set in a fairground. With a happy-ish ending.