Thursday, 4 November 2010

History of The Big Bands presented by Darius Campbell Congress Theatre Eastbourne

Darius Campbell and Nova Nouvelle visit Eastbourne

History of The Big Bands
presented by Darius Campbell
Congress Theatre
4th November 2010


Presenter: Darius Campbell
Showgirl: Nova Nouvelle

The Band

Peter Whyman
Duncan Lamont Jnr
Greg Heath
Andor Jensen
John O'Neill
Kevin Wedrychowski
Ben Cummins
Paul Jiasini
Brian Hill
Mike Feltham
Simon Walker
Andy Watson
Robert Maslin
Bill Mudge
Nick Pugh
Steven Vintner

This is my actual review of the production. To be fair to the performers I have separated this from my complaint post about issues that were outside their control. To combine the two I think would have led to a misleading, unfair, final rating.

Many may not have been aware of it but all profits from this production and all proceeds from merchandising are to be used to help the very worthy Help For Heroes charity formed to help those who have been wounded in Britain's current conflicts.

In the knowledge that if everybody in the 800+ audience tonight bought just one piece of merchandise an incredible £6000 could go towards this good cause I am pleased that the audience seemed to take this to heart as it seemed very little was left as the end of the evening.

With Darius and some of the others involved in this also giving up their own appearance fees the performers and production team should feel very proud of the amazing support they have shown to Help For Heroes.

This show is a journey back in time covering the greatest band leaders of the past. It is also a tribute to famous instrumentalists and iconic singers.

With a beautiful 16 piece, all male, orchestra the sounds of those musical heroes is reproduced perfectly. Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey , Count Basie and, of course, Glen Miller are just a few of the famous names whose sounds are reproduced with note perfect exactness.

Darius Campbell brings History Of The Big Bands to EastbourneDarius Campbell is presenter and singer for the evening. Darius who? Yes for those who didn't know he has recently changed his surname to his mother's maiden name this is the artist formerly known as Darius Danesh who finished 3rd in the first series of Pop Idol in 2001.

At that time he was beaten by Gareth Gates and eventual winner Will Young. To be honest, even at the time, we preferred him above those two and his presentation and singing performance tonight has done nothing to change that opinion.

Turning down a substantial record deal from Simon Cowell he signed with Steve Lillywhite instead. He proved all his doubters wrong when his first song Colourblind, self penned, entered the UK pop chart straight in at #1.

I'm delighted that he has proved his critics wrong and that his career has gone from strength to strength. Since that TV debut in 2001 he has toured the world supporting Shakira and appeared in India with Alanis Morissette.

He has made a name for himself in the West End starring in Guys 'n' Dolls, Gone with The Wind and Chicago. More recently he starred as Torreador "Escamillio" at the O2 Arena in his operatic debut in Carmen. This gained rave reviews which were added to by a dear lady seeing tonight's show who described his performance at the O2 using so many favourable adjectives I can't even remember them! She also bought Darius a beautiful bouquet of red roses.

Darius Campbell and Nova Nouvelle History Of The Big BandsAnd of course in addition to all this Darius has continued to pen his own music, gained a very loyal fanbase and continued to be a hugely successful recording artist.

Tonight's performance? Cool, clear, concise and above all charming are all good descriptives. In a manner that befits the musical era featured, in his cool, chilled-out style he takes us back to a time long gone. Guiding us through the history of those incredible band leaders whilst singing the tracks made famous by the likes of Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and numerous other classic artists.

A really lovely touching part of this show was the naming and appreciation of war veterans who were in the audience. Not just soldiers but those who had played a large active part in helping and entertaining our troops during the second world war.

The women in the audience absolutely adore Darius and a few of those women gave us a very funny moment. Those vigilant in the Congress Theatre audience may have noticed what appeared to be a white handkerchief neatly appearing out of the top of his breast pocket. Early in the show, as he bent down towards the front of the stage this fell out. It was actually a piece of white paper. It remained a nagging curiosity to the 3 women it landed in front of though because just in front of the stage there is a gap of about 2" with a "sectional boards" divider before the front seats.

Showgirl Nova Nouvelle Congress Theatre EastbourneYes to their sheer torment that's where it landed and I am sure during the first half they were more interested in that than the show continually peering down into the slim dark void.

Interval time and it all got too much for our impatient trio. They could see it but couldn't reach it. They even tried dismantling the Congress Theatre by lifting the sectional boards but still this mystery document eluded them.

What was on it? A love letter? A dedication to be read out? Some lucky lady's phone number? His phone number? (They wish!)

I'm sure expectations were high and eventually after a lot of bending, stretching and positions that would be impressive in any game of Twister their perseverance was rewarded.

The sheer disappointment at discovering it showed nothing more than a local postcode must have been soul-destroying. Probably the theatre's post code for Darius Sat Nav so they could find the place. But was it really worth so much hard work? Funny though!

In the final part of the show Darius performs some of his own tracks all of which are still perfectly suited to the show and the wonderful band.

I have not yet mentioned a very important performer in this show. That is the lovely Nova Nouvelle a pretty showgirl with an infectious smile, direct from Las Vegas.

Throughout the show she dances beautifully to the period music, whilst slipping in and out of period costumes in true "troop motivational" fashion. Nothing naughty and nothing more risque than a burlesque-type beautiful performance she raised many a smile and cheer from the males and the non-prudish females in the audience.

Yes there were some women digging husbands hard  in the ribs, telling them off for "looking" and muttering "I came to see Darius and a band not a strip show". Sorry ladies but that is an exaggeration. The dances are all appropriate to the music and if the appearance of an attractive woman in a bra and shorts really is that offensive do what one lady did and shut your eyes! I should add that my wife fortunately is not in the prudish brigade and I still have all ribs intact.

Understandably we were relative youngsters in this audience given the age group this would most appeal to but we were by no means alone. Whether it was the good cause, the Darius Factor or some other reason it was good to see quite a few under 50's dotted around.

I thoroughly enjoyed this production and we hope to catch next years tour. Eastbourne's show was the last in the current tour. It all kicks off again in February 2011

Darius Cambell Congress Theatre Eastbourne candidsI like many types of music and some "easy listening" makes a pleasant change especially when it's a production as well presented as this is. I'd thoroughly recommend this show.

Incidentally as his fans already know. He's a charmer on stage and he is a genuine pleasure to meet. He meets everybody in the foyer who wants too see him and he'll sign anything of your merchandise. He is unhurried and will give people time for photos and chat. It is refreshing because in these days of "don't you know who I am attitudes" the Darius's of the theatre circuit are in the minority.

It's to his benefit though because if the person impresses as much off stage as on I'd be more likely to want to see them again. Darius just hit the top of the charts again, my friendly performer chart.

Nova was lovely to meet too. Although strangely women didn't want to and their men probably weren't allowed to. It seemed somewhat ironic to me that she's a showgirl who actually comes across as somebody who's actually quietly spoken and quite shy.

She did mention that if she were to be in next years tour of this production that they might "tone down" the act a bit. I think that would be wrong and I get a little tired of the women who cringe at the sight of a bra but cheer at the sight of a male chest. If Darius had been taking his shirt off that would have been fine with the prudish brigade. For goodness sake we're in 2010 not 1910!

Finally to all the people in the foyer (including the theatre staff) who probably thought I had lost the plot in taking so many candid photos I was actually doing Darius a little favour.

The shots vary in quality as flash on a compact camera is always a bit hit and miss in this sort of lighting but if you were there, in the foyer, are you in the slideshow below? If you are and you want the original image just download it from my flickr page
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