Thursday, 30 October 2008

The advertising leaflet reads; "A gift-wrapped evening of quality favourites from two of the gentlemen of British musical theatre."

That is just about the perfect sentence to sum up a very good show which lasted just over 2 and a half hours, including a 20 minute interval.
Gary Wilmot, comedian, singer, songwriter and genuine nice guy
Gary Wilmot is a superb entertainer both musically and in comedy and also a great songwriter. He really is one of those people you could imagine was even smiling at the moment of his birth. It is a grin that just seems permanenly etched on his face.

No huge ego - just a loveable friendly guy who appears to get total pleasure not from money but from providing quality entertainment.

He has, of course, appeared on TV shows but his background really lies in musical theatre. He has performed in countless West End productions. Oliver, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Me and My Girl, Copocabana and Half a Sixpence being just a few.

Outside of the theatre Gary has several solo albums to his name covering a wide range of musical tastes including jazz.

Mike (Michael) Alexander, in addition to being Gary's best friend, is one of the best known Musical Directors, Conductors, Composers, Pianists and songwriters this country has ever known.

Mike Alexander, musical director, songwriter, pianist, composer Mike worked with Shirley Bassey (for around 15 year).... indirectly thanks to comedian Freddie Starr... but that's another story. He has also worked with Liza Minelli, Ray Charles, George Shearing and many more.

He has worked with everything from small jazz bands to symphony orchestras and appeared in venues like The London Palladium The Royal Albert Hall and Sydney Opera House to name but a few.

This may just have been two men and a piano but that is all that was needed for a great performance. Mike performing a selection of solo pieces, everything from movie themes to jazz pieces. He's also quite the comedian himself with some great on-stage comical exchanges with Gary and some humourous ad-libbing.

Mike Alexander, at the piano, with Gary Wilmot Gary Wilmot blasted out hits from the musicals, songs from his albums, pieces written specificially for the show and many other well known songs.

This was quite a pairing of musical talent although the audience, considering the huge 1700+ seating capacity of the Congress Theatre, was pathetically small at just a few hundred. However, I didn't see a single person who left the show saying it hadn't been anything but brilliant.

The rather small crowd didn't put off the performers with Gary even joking at it from the outset. Coming on to the stage he walked to the front to say "Good evening. How are you?"....... a slight pregnant pause followed by "Where are you?"

But those I did speak to all said what a shame it was that the attendance was so small. Sadly, for a regular theatre goer this has become a regular occurence, I can't remember the last time I saw a sell-out-show. Oh actually I can, it was the X-Factor tour show, in Brighton, but read my review on that for yourselves.

I think you can always tell a good artist by the way they react towards the audience and how friendly they are with the public.

Within seconds of the show ending both Mike and Gary were out in the nice warm theatre foyer (better than by a cold stage door,outside) greeting anybody who wanted to meet them. It was also nice that this was a non-rushed affair with everyone getting all the time they wanted for chat, photos or autographs. It also has to be said that Gary and Mike were also signing copies of their latest CD album - an absolute bargain at just £5.

I mentioned to Mike Alexander that the only shame was the number in the audience and asked what attendance levels had been like elsewhere on the tour. He said that it had varied considerably between levels such as this to around 500+.

I still think that is a pretty woeful level of audience for 2 such friendly and talented individuals. The artists were quick to blame it on the "credit crunch". I'm not so sure and believe this decline in theatre attendences has been noticable for many many years. I know I've said it before but local authorities, radio stations and even theatre support groups need to realise that if theatres are still to be financially viable in 15 years (many are heavily subsidized even now) the time to start taking action is NOW. Print This Entry

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